The Making of June

The Making of June

The story behind a 26-foot open lobster boat and how it was built.
Feature Article

The Making of June

The story behind a 26-foot open lobster boat and how it was built.
Spring 2023 issue of American Craft magazine
Author Karen Olson
People on a boat launching on the water.

June was launched in Rockland, Maine, in June 2022. | Photo by Christine Canella.

Lisa Dingle didn’t grow up around watercraft. “We were not boaters, we did not boat,” she says. Still, she was drawn to wooden boats. After she and her husband, John, bought their home in Southport, Maine, in 2006, she began researching them in earnest. It took 10 years to convince John, who was concerned about the upkeep, that they should get one. They decided theirs should be a new boat, custom-made.

“I’d long had Doug Alvord’s image showing the evolution of the Maine lobster boats on my computer,” Dingle says. “It shows how the hulls of the lobster boats have changed over time, from about 1860 to 1960. I was absolutely enamored with the hulls and their lines. I’d spend hours lost in researching torpedo hulls, reverse transoms, totally geeking out. The art of it . . . oh, holy cow.”

After learning that friends had commissioned a boat from The Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine, the Dingles visited the school. “Walking into The Apprenticeshop is like walking into a wooden boatbuilding paradise,” says Dingle. “The smells, the sounds . . . the creativity and craftsmanship are evident almost everywhere you turn.”

The couple described to lead instructor Kevin Carney the type of boat they were looking for. They mentioned Lisa’s love of lobster boats and how they both admired early 1900s Hampton-style versions. Eventually, says Dingle, “Kevin got this look in his eye. He excused himself, and when he arrived back at the bench, he unrolled the design for the Cliffy.” In 2002 Dynamite Payson commissioned plans for a lobster boat based on the lines of the Luella B, an iconic boat used by the Snow family in their lobstering business on Metinic Island in the 1940s. The Luella B was designed and built by Clifford Winchenbach of Waldoboro, Maine, after whom the Cliffy model is named.

“I was gobsmacked,” says Dingle. “I said, That’s my boat!

So the Dingles commissioned this open lobster boat from The Apprenticeshop, which offers courses in traditional wooden boatbuilding and seamanship. In their nine-month and two-year apprenticeships, students build commissioned boats like this one.

“The idea of supporting a nonprofit, where students are learning these incredible skills from master boatbuilders, was such a bonus,” says Dingle. As was being able to follow the boat’s progress “from the final design and lofting to the acquisition of the raw materials, the milling of lumber, and the soaking of frames directly in the salt water of Rockland Harbor.” The Dingles were also able to watch the bronze fittings and the rings for the sail being cast.

People pulling a boat on wheels with a rope.

After apprentices finished building the boat, they spent a full day using rollers, pry bars, come-alongs, ropes, block and tackle, and jacks to position it at the exit of the building so a truck could pull it out and launch it. “Moving such a large object is an education that people don’t get in a lot of places,” | Photo by Erin Tokarz.

People come from across the country—and around the world—to learn these skills at The Apprenticeshop. “It is possible physically to build a boat by yourself, whether that’s a big boat or a little boat, and people do it,” says Nina Noah, who until recently was the school’s director of student affairs and outreach, and who describes in the following pages some of the craft skills used to make the Dingles’ boat. “But the shop’s intentional approach is building together.”

In June 2022 the boat was launched. The Dingles named it June and filled it with friends and family. “We were out and about on June as often as possible this past year, exploring the local waters as we learned to trust her—and ourselves—to get us back home safely. The boat is, for sure, absolutely beautiful. But she is also as solid as her predecessor, the Luella B.”◆ | @theapprenticeshop

Stack of 4 magazines.

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