Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, October 5, 2017 and The Weekly Packet, October 5, 2017
With help from WoodenBoat, Oceanville family’s boat gets new life
by Monique Labbe
A boat, no matter the size, is a treasured item for many families in the area. Such is true for Chris Shanklin and his family in Oceanville, who, with the help of Greg Rossel at The WoodenBoat School in Brooklin gave new life to a pulling boat that has been in his family since the 1970s. The boat, with fresh design drawings from WoodenBoat, is also being replicated at the school.
The “white rowboat,” as the family calls it, is almost 100 years old, initially owned by Cressy Morrison in the 1920s. The boat was handed down to Morrison’s stepdaughter, Kate Jacobus, who gifted it to Shanklin’s grandfather, John Peterson, before she died.
“Before my grandfather passed away in September of 2008, we were out in his woodshop that summer talking about the boat, and I remember vividly never having seen him get so emotional about something as he did when he was talking about the history of the boat and what it meant to him,” Shanklin recalled.
Shanklin decided he wanted to find a way to preserve the boat, which had suffered wear over the years and was no longer seaworthy. In 2014, he reached out to The WoodenBoat School in Brooklin, as his grandfather had taken classes there and he figured someone could point him in the right direction. He was sent to Rossel.
“I was immediately interested in the project,” said Rossel. “The boat had been covered in fiberglass to try and preserve it, but that ended up being the death of it, so to speak. The hull was still there, though, and I drew up plans around that.”
Rossel decided he wanted to take the project one step further, and with the help of the participants in his classes at WoodenBoat, he set to work on building a replica of the boat last year.
“This boat is thought to have been the fastest boat in the harbor during its time,” said Rossel. “It’s such a local vessel; it’s pretty amazing.”
Rossel and his students have been building the boat using the same process as it would have been built nearly 100 years ago, he said, except for little things, like using screws instead of rivets. The hull shape, he said, is exactly the same as the original.
“When we heard they were going to be building a replica this summer, my dad and I knew we had to stop by,” said Shanklin. “Our family had always thought the boat was beautiful and one of the best rowing boats you’ll ever find, but when we stopped by WoodenBoat earlier this summer, it was very special to hear from everyone there that they thought the same thing.”
The work has been slow, as Rossel and his classes usually have five different boat-building projects going at once. Rossel said he is excited about the progress that has been made and is eager to pick up the project again in the spring when classes get going again. This year’s classes wrapped up in mid-September.
“This area has such a rich history in boating, and you hear stories all the time about third generations of boat owners,” said Rossel. “But this boat was a very important one back in its day. It would have been used to service larger vessels, carry cargo in and out of the harbor. The pulling boat was a bit of everything. It was a delivery boat, kind of like a rental car when you get off an airplane. It’s a big piece of the history here.”