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by Colin Dukes, Juneau-Douglas High School, Juneau, AK - USA

I am a high school shop teacher in Juneau, AK and my class just finished Warren Messer's Laura Bay. The plans were purchased through Duckworks as well as some of the supplies. Also, through Duckworks I was able to contact Warren who was a great asset to our class.

Colin Dukes
Juneau-Douglas High School
Juneau, Alaska

The Laura Bay

By: Students of Juneau-Douglas High School

We are a group of students in the CHOICE program at Juneau-Douglas High School in Juneau, Alaska and we just completed the Laura Bay.  Choosing Healthy Options in Cooperative Education (CHOICE) is an alternative program at our school.  Our mission is graduating from high school for a select set of 9-11 grade students who have experienced factors in their lives which have undermined success in a traditional academic setting.  Over the last few years there has been a CHOICE specific woodshop class in which students have had the opportunity to work together building boats.

For this semester our teacher, Mr. Dukes, picked Warren Messer’s 9.5’ Laura Bay.  Mr. Dukes picked this design because most of us had little or no experience with tools or boat building and Warren’s plans are are to follow.  Warren also has step by step photos of the Laura Bay build and a YouTube channel where he demonstrates boat building techniques, which makes it easy to understand complicated processes for the first time builder.  Warren was also kind enough to Skype with us and discuss boat design and boat building.  Thanks Warren!

While we were waiting for the paint to dry we began to interview each other about the build process.  Since there are many of us in the class, some questions will have multiple answers to cover our different opinions.

Q: Was building a boat easier or harder than you thought?
A:  Building a boat was easier than we thought because we were able to work together, making it go a lot faster. We were also worried that one little mistake would ruin the boat, but we found that we could fix most of our mistakes with fillet. 
A:  It was easy until we began to wire it together, which then made it harder than we thought and took more time than we thought it would.  In the end the hard work paid off. 
Q: Would you build another boat in the future?  If so, what kind would you like to build?
A:  Yes!!!  It was a lot of fun, but we wouldn’t want to build one by ourselves because it would take forever.  We would like to build it as a team again and we would like to do the same boat or try a sailboat (we did not build the sailing version outlined in the plans).  It was an awesome project and a lot of fun. Thinking back to the sheets of plywood in the beginning and after all of our hard work the boat is now ready for the water. 
A:  I would like to build a boat for fun when I get older. 
Q:  What was the best part of the build process?
A:  The best part was when we got it together and it started to look like a boat.  The end was also fun because the painting was easy and we could see what it looks like finished. 
A: Putting it in the water and using it will be the best part.
Q:  What was the most challenging part of the build process?
A:  Sanding!!!  Sanding is boring because it is time consuming, and it wears you out.  The wiring was also challenging because we had to get all of the panels aligned and it hurts to get poked by the wires.  Measuring was challenging too, especially lofting the panels and figuring out the seat bulkheads.  Sometimes it was challenging to make sure we didn’t have any drips or extra fillet because that would make us sand more. 
Q:  What advice would you give to someone building a boat?
A: Don’t complain, take your time, measure, measure, measure, try to avoid drips, and work the fillet while it is wet so you don’t have to sand it as much.  We also found that using strips of cardboard to make templates for the seats was way easier than trying to measure. 
A:  Working as a group makes the process go faster.  Build a boat with your friends.

Q:  Did you learn anything?
A:  We learned that patients is the key to building a boat, how to listen, how to work as a team, how to use tools, and about boat terminology.  It also helped us with our confidence and problem solving skills. 
A:  This project helped us with our math.  We improved our measuring skills and found that this is a better way to learn math than in a classroom with books.     
A:  We learned that Alison has an awesome laugh.  It is LOUD.
Q:  Do you ever get sick of people asking if the boat will float?
A: Yes, it is insulting.  People say that all of the time and we don’t like it.

Q:  What do your friends and family say when you tell them you are building a boat in school?
A:  Everyone is really interested and they want to see it, but some don’t believe that high school kids can do it and ask if it floats (see the above question). 
Q:  What made you the most nervous building the boat?
A:  Cutting the pieces out made us the most nervous because we didn’t want to mess anything up and we wanted everything to fit together.  We had to be careful not to sand through the fiberglass, so that made us kind of nervous too.  Using the power tools also made us nervous.   
Q:  What else might people want to know about?
A:  Alison’s joke: “What did the ocean say to the boat?  Nothing, it just waved!”  “I don’t care that it is lame, it is still funny.”  [Loud laughing]

Follow the entire build process by going to our class website:

The Crew:

Billy, “The Sander Extraordinaire”
Kayla, “The Sliding Compound Miter Saw Diva” 
Alison, “The Pablo Picasso of Boat Paint”
Alex, “The Oar Guru”
Jeffrey, “The Supervisor of Supervisors”
Clara, “The Queen of the Wires”  
Linda, “The Princess of Power Tools”
Lisa, “The Mistress of Measuring”
Jesse, “The Sandpaper Wizard”.

Colin Dukes, Teacher

Warren Messer, designer, via Skype

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