Under the direction of teacher and coxswain Dan Kane (in stern) students in the George Stevens Academy Experiential Education and Outdoor Leadership Class, (from left) Kayla Bond, Erika Hipsky, Fiona Guinness and Tom Mount-Miller, row the school’s newly launched St. Ayles Skiff Eagle 1 during its maiden voyage on Blue Hill Harbor last Thursday. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

George Stevens Academy launches long-awaited St. Ayles skiff

BLUE HILL — Noon came off raw and windy last Thursday, but the dank weather couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of nine George Stevens Academy students and the handful of faculty, administrators and friends gathered at the Blue Hill town dock for the long anticipated launching of Eagle 1.

Several years ago, GSA was one of a number of Maine high schools that undertook the construction of a 22-foot traditional wooden St. Ayles skiff designed by Ian Oughtred.

The project was part of a pilot program designed by WoodenBoat magazine and Hewes & Company, which builds kits for the boat and several others in its Blue Hill shop, to encourage high school students to work together on a boatbuilding project.

Initially, Tim Farrar, GSA’s longtime industrial technology teacher, oversaw the boat’s construction. After Farrar retired in 2015, the project lost steam and the semi-finished boat languished in various corners at GSA. Last summer, though, physical education teacher Dan Kane became interested in finishing the boat. Best known as GSA’s baseball coach, Kane also teaches the school’s Experiential Education and Outdoor Leadership curriculum.

According to the GSA catalog, the course is “designed to enrich the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth of students by experiencing a wide range of content areas and opportunities within the Blue Hill Peninsula, Acadia National Park, and the state of Maine.”

The curriculum incorporates not just class instruction, but requires its students to keep journals, hear guest speakers and take part in group projects and field trips. The goal is for students to “develop skills in leadership, communication, trust building, group problem solving and decision-making. With such a broad mandate, finishing off the St. Ayles skiff so that he could incorporate it into the program was a perfect fit, Kane said Thursday.

And so it came to pass that, just after noon, the boat was christened with apple juice as Eagle 1 and launched on the falling tide and tied to the floating dock.

With the handsome double-ender, white with a GSA crimson sheer strake and a nosegay of bright flowers decorating its stem, floating, Kane and a crew of four student rowers climbed aboard. The rowers seized the boat’s long, traditionally square-loomed oars while Kane took hold of its artfully curved tiller and then set out on Eagle 1’s maiden voyage.

If all goes as planned, Kane hopes the boat will eventually carry students in GSA’s Experiential Education and Outdoor Leadership program on adventures around the harbor and, perhaps, even farther afield.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]
Stephen Rappaport

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