Crew on deck: Grand Crew restores historic sailboat with Wooden Boat School
There is something about the work of a craftsman that is almost alchemy; how knowledge and sweat combine with simple tools and raw materials to produce something that is so much more than the sum of its parts.
It is exactly that lesson students from Middle Park High School’s Grand Crew program are learning this spring as they tackle a full-scale sailboat restoration project with the assistance of Ken Fucik and the Grand Lake Wooden Boat School.
“It is so much fun,” explained sophomore James Craig while he took a brief break from the painting and sanding work he was doing last week. “I really enjoy working with the boats. I like to work with my hands, build things and be creative. Working with the boats lets me do that.”
Last week Craig and his fellow sophomore Alden Wilson were hard at work inside the rustic confines of the old Sombrero Stables in Grand Lake, where the Grand Lake Wooden Boat School, a certified nonprofit, is currently housed. Craig and Wilson were busy putting the finishing touches on a months long sailboat restoration project that they expect to wrap up in mid-May, perhaps as early as this week.
“I really enjoy getting to do the physical restoration work,” Wilson said, with a slight grin. “We have learned a lot about wood working, how to put fairing on, how to scarf. It (the boat) looked a little sketchy at first. But just looking at it now as it is coming together, especially with the new paint, it looks really good.”
Their work on the project is part of their curriculum as members of Middle Park High School’s Grand Crew, a unique program that offers students an alternative choice for an educational path. Grand Crew students participate in a host of unique projects and internships throughout the year and Craig and Wilson’s work in Grand Lake has been part of that process.
Grand Crew students initially began working with Fucik’s Wood Boat School last school year, tackling some simple restoration projects on smaller vessels. This year however a donated 14-foot Glen L sloop sailboat has allowed a few students who are particularly interested in boat restoration to dig even deeper into the trade.
The project began last fall when the Wooden Boat School received a donation from a Granby citizen.
“The boat was donated by a gentleman in Granby,” Fucik explained. “It had been used very heavily but had sat for many years and was in bad shape when we got it.”
When Fucik received the donated boat he offered it as a project to the Grand Crew but he still needed additional funding to cover costs that would be incurred by the work. That is when Grand Lake’s Rotary Club stepped up. The Club had previously offered to partner with Fucik’s nonprofit organization and the Grand Crew boat restoration project became a perfect fit.
“The reason it is getting restored is because of the money they gave us,” Fucik said.
According to Fucik the club provided over $2,000 to help cover materials costs for the project. He noted that other local organizations, including the Grand Foundation and Grand Lake Fire Protection District, also provided funding that went towards materials costs for the project.
“We started by dismantling bad decking and bad wood,” Fucik said. “We have repaired and replaced wood; repainted, sanded, we did some fiberglassing. I taught the students scarfing, which is joining panels for the decking. We will soon be putting on the deck and remounting hardware.”
Fucik said he hopes to have the boat restoration project completed in the next few weeks to then begin sailing classes for the kids.
“They will be sailing before school is out,” he said emphatically.
Maggie Michalowski, program coordinator for Grand Crew, said the program is humming along nicely during its second year in existence and that her students are excited and engaged in their myriad internships and final projects.
“It has been a good year,” she said. “We have a lot more ongoing projects this year. We are working with the historical society. We are on river watch collecting data. We also have this long-term project restoring the boat.”
According to Michalowski all of the Crew students have participated in the boat restoration project though Craig, Wilson and junior student Gabe Gonzalez have formed a core group that has really spearheaded the effort.
“They are really interested and want to learn this stuff,” Michalowski said. “They are learning how to replaced wooden pieces, repair fiberglass, mix and apply epoxy, they have scarfed wood. They are learning the process of making it look brand new.”
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