spotlight stories

spotlight on the spurling skiff

A number of years ago Sam Huber, an amateur boatbuilder and a longtime friend of Rocking the Boat’s offered to restore an old rowing skiff for a family friend. The boat, a Spurling Skiff, was the native craft of Little Cranberry Island (also known as Islesford) on the Maine coast and was designed by the island’s last full time boatbuilder Arthur “Chummy” Spurling. Once Sam got into the project, he quickly realized it was far bigger than he had originally anticipated. Not wanting to give up on it, he thought of Rocking the Boat. Might a bunch of kids in the South Bronx be interested in restoring a boat for a small island community on the coast of Maine?

As coincidence would have it, Rocking the Boat has a 12-year relationship with Little Cranberry Island. Brendan Ravenhill, who grew up on the island and ran Rocking the Boat’s Boatbuilding Program in 2005-2006 was inspired to create Islesford Boatworks, a youth boatbuilding program modeled after Rocking the Boat. These days Islesford Boatworks is run by Tony Archino, who spent six years as a Rocking the Boat Program Director and discovered his love for wooden boatbuilding in the Bronx.

For all the obvious synchronicity, Rocking the Boat Executive Director Adam Green jumped at the chance to take on the project. Upon further inspection, however, the condition of the skiff was beyond repair. What was possible was the opportunity to take the lines off the old boat, loft it, and recreate it piece by piece. Sam was thrilled with this solution and endorsed the project.

With the start of the spring semester in March, up to six apprentices will take on this ambitious project while the other half of the class puts the finishing touches on the Herreshoff 12 ½ sailboat begun two years ago. The apprentices will begin by taking a complete set of “lines” or measurements off the original boat. From this they will create a table of offsets (a chart that shows the distances of relative points on the hull that together represent the shape of the boat in three dimensions) and will then loft the boat (the process of creating a full-scale, three dimensional drawing of the boat). From the lofting boards, the molds will be built and shaped and mounted to a strongback platform by the summer semester, when the rest of the class can join the project, in small teams building the stem, keel, and stern. Come December, Sam and the family that owns the boat will be invited to the Bronx for the installation of the oarlocks donated from the original boat. The finished reproduction will return to Little Cranberry, where it will be well used by community members of all ages.

“There’s a beautiful circle to be closed with this project. The “Chummy" Spurling skiff that has found its way to RTB has been out of commission for years, but was a childhood favorite of some dear friends whose family has lived and boated on Islesford for several generations. When rebuilding the skiff morphed into a bigger project than I could handle, my first thought was RTB. Bringing the skiff project to the Bronx completes the connection back to Islesford, where Islesford Boatworks has revived the Spurling legend by building a sister skiff. RTB’s Spurling project is sure to be an inspiration to others to discover the craftsmanship of a Maine coast boatbuilder. I couldn’t be more thrilled to support this project.”

this project is supported by:

RPM Foundation

RPM Foundation (RPM) is an educational grant-making program of America’s Automotive Trust (AAT).  RPM is funded by collector vehicle and classic boat enthusiasts to serve youth and young adults on their pathways to careers in automotive/marine restoration & preservation along with the long-term interests of the collector vehicle and classic boat communities.  Visit: for more information.



Through a unique grants program, Workforce Development Institute makes investments that lead to workforce development and economic growth.

kids don’t just build boats, boats build kids

rocking the boat
812 edgewater road
bronx, ny 10474
phone: 718.466.5799
fax: 718.466.2892