The community of Islesford, located on Little Cranberry Island 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.
Working with the residents of Islesford, the Ravenhill family started Islesford Boatworks in 2006 as a way to support the waterfront and share their passion for woodworking and boats with children living in the Mt Desert region. By teaching kids to build traditional wooden boats, IB accomplishes its mission:
Building opportunity, community, and a future for Maine’s working waterfront.
Through the boatbuilding shop, housed in an 800 sq.ft. barn on the Ravenhill’s property, IB has taught the traditional craft of wooden boatbuilding to an average of 60 children each summer, in a 6-8 week summer program. Over 500 individual students have attended over the past 11 years, many attending year after year.
In recent years, Islesford Boatworks has expanded to meet the needs of the community by adding an advanced woodworking program for teens, an evening adult program and, most recently, a Summer Camp Collaboration Program in which local camps join us for a hands-on day of boatbuilding in our shop. Through these programs, IB has been able to better serve the needs of the community, and nearly triples our summer participants.
A Statement from Brendan Ravenhill, Co-founder
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.
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.