Rocking the Boat

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whaleboat project

In 2013, seven Rocking the Boat Job Skills Apprentices completed a two-year effort to construct a 29-foot whaleboat on commission for the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. Joining Rocking the Boat in this ambitious effort to build ten whaleboats for the Charles W. Morgan whaleship are the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Great Lakes Boat Building School in Michigan, Alexandria Seaport Foundation in Virginia, The Wooden Boat Factory in Philadelphia, The Apprenticeshop of Rockland, Maine, Lowell's Boatshop in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and the neighboring New Bedford Whaling Museum. Independence's Workshop on the Water started its boat a couple of months before Rocking the Boat and has been generously guiding the Apprentices through the building process, hosting them on numerous visits to the museum and creating an additional set of molds and keel and frame bending patterns.

The whaleboat is a historically and technically rich project for the Apprentices to sink their teeth into. The work has included: steam bending 64 frames; employing a rare method of planking with a lapped garboard (first plank overlaps the second) and then carvel up the sides (planks butt up against each other edge to edge to create a smooth hull) with thin strips of wood fastened over each of the internal seams; and "whomping" the planks in order for them to fit the contour at the turn of the bilge before clench nailing. The Apprentices have just successfully met their goal for the semester of installing all eight sets of planks. Next semester will involve removing the molds, finishing out the interior, and painting in time to launch the boat and sail it to Mystic next summer.

Rocking the Boat is grateful to Mystic for hosting Apprentices on several tours of the Morgan restoration and for providing 600 feet of northern white cedar for planking and white oak for the keel, stems, and frames. Special thanks go to Peter Kellogg, who is generously supporting the cost of the materials and the salaries related to the construction of the whaleboat.

time-lapse of whaleboat construction

the apprentices

mouse over the images to read their bios


Jessica, 16, a junior at Central Park East High School in Manhattan, joined Rocking the Boat at the same time as her older sister, Jennifer. All three Martinez siblings were together at Rocking the Boat for close to one year.

"Working on the whale boat has inspired me to live in a brighter future, acknowledging the fact that I created something so huge, with great people. Working well with others which brought us together as a family."


Diana joined the Boatbuilding Program in July, 2011 and became an Apprentice a year later. Her involvement as a Boatbuilder and exposure to the On-Water Program have helped broaden Diana's perspective on her classes at the High School for Environmental Studies in Manhattan, and she would like to pursue a career in environmental engineering.

"Working on the whale boat has allowed me to break out of my shell and has taught me skills that will benefit me in the future. Building this whale boat has kept me devoted and committed... I can strive for anything and know that I can accomplish my goals."


Natividad joined Rocking the Boat in September, 2011. The oldest of five children, she is a 17-year old junior at Hyde Leadership Charter School.

"Working on the whaleboat at Rocking the Boat is the highlight of my day. It relieves my stress and has increased my patience. Also, guys think girls can't use tools. This is a way to prove them wrong!"


Edmanuel grew up in the apartment directly above Rocking the Boat's former shop. It was almost inevitable that he would become involved in the Boatbuilding Program and now, several years later, he has joined the full-time staff as the Assistant Boatbuilding Job Skills Program Director.

"This is the biggest boat I've ever worked on. I love what I do. It doesn't feel like work—this is a huge part of my life."