Hannaford students build traditional Vermont trapper boats

MIDDLEBURY/VERGENNES — For the fourth year, students in Jackson Burnham’s Engineering Design class at Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center participated in a historical research project on the maritime history of our region. Students measured and documented a traditional Lake Champlain boat, a fishing and trapping skiff originally from Putt’s Creek in Crown Point, N.Y., then built three replicas.
Joe Bodette of Crown Point generously loaned the class his boat for documentation. In mid-October students launched their new boats in the Otter Creek behind the career center in Middlebury.
The project is part of a larger research initiative titled “In Champlain’s Wake, Small Boat Traditions of Lake Champlain,” conducted by the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History and led by Vergennes boatbuilder Douglas Brooks. The initiative seeks to document the traditions of boats and boatbuilding in the Lake Champlain Basin.
Until the 1980s, trapping was an important economic activity throughout the Lake Champlain Region. Boats were integral to this activity and students’ research showed that many, if not most of these boats, were built by the trappers themselves. The result was the development of a boat type specific to trapping the local waters, designed, refined and built by amateur craftsmen.
Previous classes have documented historic trapping boats from Ferrisburgh, Panton, Addison and Putnam Station, N.Y. Last year, working with a $5,000 Local Heritage grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, Hannaford students in Lisa Rader’s “Design and Illustration” class designed logos, exhibit panels, interpretive materials, web resources and other materials in support of this research. One result was a unique book, “The Two Pointers of Dead Creek; History, Design, and Construction,” a 30-page monograph that provides readers with a historical overview of these boats and offers a detailed step-by-step description of their construction.
HANNAFORD CAREER CENTER students not only researched and designed historic boats, they went into the workshop and build three craft. Photo by Jake Burham
The project requires students to measure historic boats and build replicas, and produce detailed plans of the boats using CAD (computer aided design) software.
“Our teachers let us figure out our own strategy,” says senior Sam Hodges, “(It) leads to a lot of great problem solving within the team.”
Junior Ben Clark notes, “We have had to use different types of technology throughout this project. We have used tape measures, squares, drills, saws and CAD. We had to learn how to use these tools, and know when it was appropriate to use them.”
“We have to make decisions to solve problems, and we have to explain our reasoning and explain how the solution will work and the other problems it might cause,” junior Jameson Haggett adds. “This forces us to make a logical decision and think ahead so that we do not just create a solution that will fix the problem in the moment, but make things harder later on.”
William Brooks, the Sheldon Museum’s executive director, noted that the museum has hosted two exhibits of Hannaford students’ work.
“It’s exciting to see local high school students engaged in original historical research as well as adding these boat drawings to our archives,” Brooks said. “We hope to do more public programming based on this work in the future.”
“This project has really impacted me because it has changed what I may want to do with my life,” says Jacob Gonyeau, a junior.
Fellow junior Ethan Sawyer agrees. He says, “It is very fun working with an industry professional. It creates a very different environment than an average classroom.”
THE THREE HISTORIC replica watercraft that the Career Center students built this year easily carried three people each as they paddled up Otter Creek from the school last month.
Drone photo by Jack Waterman and Will Wormer
Hannaford’s Engineering Design class provides students the opportunity to learn the engineering content and design principles necessary for success in any college engineering degree program. Course objectives focus on scientific, economic, social and practical knowledge in order to research, design, innovate, prototype, and build structures, machines, devices and systems. Students can expect to learn lots of technical skills and equipment in this course and Mount Abraham senior Abby Perlee notes: “We also learned life skills that will translate into other things besides building boats.”
To date Hannaford students have produced drawings of nine regional historic boats, the first such documentation produced of the local watercraft of our region.
The results will be added to The Two Pointers of Dead Creek. Copies of the book and selected drawings are available from the Henry Sheldon Museum store. All of these opportunities for sharing student work with the community aside, junior Larkin Kenney simply puts it, “The boats look like real boats, and that is pretty cool, because we made them.”
Financial support for this year’s project cane from the Lake Champlain chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society.
This year’s work for “In Champlain’s Wake, Small Boat Traditions of Lake Champlain” was funded by the Regatta for Lake Champlain and James Bullard. Research in past years has been funded by a variety of foundations and agencies.
For more information about this research, contact Project Manager Douglas Brooks at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News

Bernard D. Kimball, 76, of Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — Bernard D. Kimball, 76, passed away in Bennington Hospital on Jan. 10, 2023. … (read more)

News Uncategorized

Fresh Air Fund youths returning to county

The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)

Obituaries Uncategorized

Mark A. Nelson of Bristol

BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)

Share this story: