Up to the task — school boatbuilding project ends with a sail around Mangrove Bay
Two very special boats took to the water for the first time yesterday — both handmade by six middle school pupils.
It took the boys, all 14, just eight months to craft the optimist dinghies from marine plywood under the watchful eye of their design and technology teacher, Christopher Naylor.
The pupils — Tyson Harvey, T'zare Gibson, Cush Smith, Quinaceo Hunt, Samuel Johns and Nesiah Joell — are the first from the school to embark on such a project, and it is clear their twice-weekly classes were put to good use.
Even an occasional rain shower could not dampen the boys' smiles as they took their boats into Mangrove Bay for their inaugural sail.
“We're going all the way to Dockyard,” laughed Quinaceo as he and T'Zare pushed their craft into the water and climbed aboard.
“This is the first time they've been in the water,” Mr Naylor said. “The boys really stepped up for this project and they've enjoyed it.
“They usually make jewellery boxes and small toys — this wasn't really a middle school project and they used power tools like jigsaws, it's been a more advanced skill set.
“They've worked on this almost every lesson since October and it's so nice to see the finished boats.
“Some of the boys are very good and will do well up at high school next year.”
As the boys split into groups of three and clambered aboard, there were nerves as they hoped their optis would stay afloat.
“We're taking on water,” shouted Tyson, although the small leak could not sink the pupils' handiwork.
All six boys were soon aboard the boats and paddling around the bay using their handcrafted oars. Cush showed off his impressive creation, crafted to look like a shark had taken a bite out of it.
Yells of laughter and congratulations were yelled as the proud teens found their sea legs and reaped the rewards of their hard work.
On the beach, teacher Mr Naylor beamed with pride as he looked on accompanied by the school principal, Dr Timothy Jackson.
Dr Jackson said: “We're very proud of the children. This project has been very good practical experience and an opportunity to hone their cooperation skills, learn to work with each other, depend on each other. It's skills they can use later in life.”
The project grew from an idea by a member of the school's board of governors, Joe Robinson, a keen sailor.
“We wanted to tie in with the Waterwise programme, teaching youngsters to sail,” he said. “We're looking at building more of these and we really want to encourage children in the sailing programme.
‘The boatbuilding programme gives the children firsthand experience and interpersonal skills.
“And it's important to say that Mr Naylor had no previous boatbuilding skills, we partnered with a school in Maine that has a programme.”
Sandys Middle School teamed up with Maine's Washington Academy for the project and a teacher visited Bermuda to help Mr Naylor prepare for the classes.
Mr Naylor said: “I focused on one of the boats with the visiting teacher but the children did everything — the other one is completely built by them.”
The boys are already squabbling over who gets to keep the boats but the school has yet to decide what to do with them.
“We've already had a couple of offers from people to buy them,” Mr Naylor said. “But the school will probably keep them.
“I think we'll make punts next year so we could develop a cottage industry and develop the commercial opportunity to raise money for the school.”
Dr Jackson added: “They would be an easy sale — they're made right here in Bermuda.”
Mr Naylor is hopeful that more pupils will be able to get involved next year.
“This has been a step into the unknown for me and the students. We'll be doing it again and we'll get the girls involved as well.”
As for the pupils, they may have found a potential new career path.
“I'd build another boat,” Quinaceo said. “It was fun.”