Islesford Boatworks is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community-based summer boatbuilding program for children ages 7 to 18 situated on Little Cranberry Island, Maine. By teaching kids to build traditional wooden boats, IB builds opportunity, community and a future for Maine’s working waterfront.


The community of Islesford, Maine was once home to a fair number of fisheries and marine-related businesses, and the island’s population relied on the ocean for their livelihood in a broad spectrum of trades. Today, however, marine-related professions on the island have ebbed to the point that only lobstering remains. In pondering the future of Islesford we have watched our waterfront change and have grown concerned about the sustainability of an island community that is increasingly cut off from the ocean.

The Summer Boatbuilding Program

The summer boatbuilding program for local youth combines classes with a complement of local museum visits, guest teachers from the community, and boating activities. Under instruction, the students build a traditional wooden sailing skiff to be launched at the end each summer in a pirate themed community celebration. Through a hands-on approach to education, the IB boatbuilding program offers young people from Islesford and the surrounding communities the opportunity to develop practical skills and achieve tangible goals. The program operates four four-hour classes per week over the course of the summer for up to 20 students, grouped by age. Classes are taught by three experienced instructors, led by a boat-building educator with previous leadership in a similar program. Shop safety and shop maintenance are emphasized as basic elements of woodworking. In addition, one of the instructors, a marine biologist, conducts classes in marine ecology and forestry. Students are encouraged to closely study and monitor their waterfront, developing an understanding of what a working waterfront is and the integral role it plays in shaping the area’s island communities. The program teaches the community’s youth woodworking and seamanship skills and instills in them a better understanding of and appreciation for a working waterfront. Additional participation and guidance from local artisans, fishermen, craftsmen, and parents thereby strengthens the sustainability, resilience, and growth of the island community.

Enrollment, Tuition and Transportation

Any child, 7-years-old or older, living on Islesford and in the surrounding community able to make a significant time commitment will be eligible to enroll. Classes are divided by age group into two skill levels, with each group attending a total of eight hours of class per week. Students will be expected to keep regular attendance and priority will be given to children able to make a commitment for the entire summer.

Tuition will be set at what a family can pay, with a ceiling of $85.00 per week per participant. No child will be turned away for lack of being able to pay tuition. Donations and grants are sought to cover expenses that are not covered by tuition payments. A variety of summer fund-raising activities will fill in budget gaps.

IB is located in the community of Islesford on Little Cranberry Island and can be reached by ferry services operating from a number of locations on Mt. Desert Island: Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, and Manset. The summer program hours are structured to allow children from surrounding communities to participate via these ferry services.

A Statement from Brendan Ravenhill, Executive Director

I drew the inspiration for Islesford Boatworks from my experience as a boat builder with Rocking the Boat (RTB), a boatbuilding and on-water education program that works with inner city youth in the South Bronx, New York. Rocking the Boat has been successful in reaching more than 100 students a year, building 16 boats with local high school youth since 1998. As the boatbuilding educator, I instructed 18 students and five apprentices in the construction of traditional lapstrake boats. Throughout my experience with RTB, I was struck by how the leadership skills and sense of community that students gain through boatbuilding can be applied even in an urban environment. I feel strongly that such a program has tremendous impact on an island where boats are a daily part of life. I have spent every summer of my life on Islesford, and I long ago fell in love with the bustle of a working waterfront. After college I moved to Islesford to live and work year-round in lobstering. I spent four years there, during which time I also designed and built the barn and woodshop that Islesford Boatworks calls home. I have often pondered the future of our island community, and I believe that Islesford Boatworks engages a younger generation to consider new ways of supporting themselves through the sea.

Generated by: Facebook Members

Built by GR805