all in the same boat - or So it Seams

There were some gaps in Rocking the Boat’s Knowledge. Fortunately, that’s not a metaphor! Knowledge is an elegant 17-foot, forest green Whitehall in Rocking the Boat’s fleet of rowboats. In the whole collection of 55 boats Rocking the Boat students have built, she is one of only three using the carvel construction method. The planks that make up the hull are set edge to edge (rather than overlapped as is the case with most of the Rocking the Boat’s lapstrake planked boats) and the seams between packed tightly with cotton caulk and sealed with an oil-based compound. After her spring and summer off the water because of the pandemic and baking inside the steel shipping containers used to store the Rocking the Boat rowing fleet, the cotton caulk had become so dry and brittle that it no longer served to seal Knowledge’s cedar planks and keep her watertight.


This fall the Boatbuilding Program had another gap to fill. The Job Skills Program Director was furloughed over the summer and then resigned to accept a full-time job in a boat yard back home in upstate New York. With the program in need of a bail out, two experienced program graduates stepped up to run it, a complementary pair that gets the job done like cotton and compound. Frankie Cabrera, the interim Boatbuilding Job Skills Program Co-Director, was a Rocking the Boat student Boatbuilder through all four years of high school until he graduated from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in 2018. He returned to Rocking the Boat in 2019, having spent nine months in Maine earning a diploma in Wooden Boatbuilding from the Landing School. Basilous Falconer—a fellow alumnus, seasoned Boatbuilding Program Assistant, and one class away from graduating from Hunter College with a degree in Art History—joined Frankie in stewarding the fall semester’s class as the Co-Director.

Gardening activity

Basilous and his apprentices’ primary focus this semester is planking American Star, a replica of a famous (well, to some people!) 1824 rowing gig. Returning to the shop after six months, the task of crafting the two garboards, the planks closest to the keel and known to be the hardest to shape and fit, was waiting for them. While Basilous steadily guided his apprentices through this challenge, the task of restoring Knowledge fell this fall to two newly minted Boatbuilding Jobs Skills apprentices under Frankie’s charge: Joshua and Elainys, a junior and senior respectively at Hyde Leadership Charter School just up the hill from the Rocking the Boat shop. After painstakingly removing or, in boatbuilding lingo, reefing out, 170 feet of the old, dried out cotton—taking care not to damage the dry and delicate cedar surrounding it—they began to stuff the caulk back in using a specialized tool called a caulking iron. The job got progressively more difficult as they went because the seams get tighter with each segment of cotton they knocked in. While the work can be tedious, the apprentices challenged themselves to complete one seam every day and finished on schedule after just 10 days. With the caulking complete, Frankie’s apprentices will switch to attaching American Star’s starboard side garboard, having learned that a boat’s planks are only as good as what you put between them.

rocking the boat
812 edgewater road
bronx, ny 10474
phone: 718.466.5799

Rocking the Boat is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Download Form 990.