2017 National Boatbuilding Challenge

Congratulations to our 2016 Winners:

Bobby Staab & Tom Russell

Owen Nelson & Dan Hebert

Cody Keithan & Matt Converse

The National Boatbuilding Challenge is returning to Belfast on Aug. 19, 2017, during the Belfast Harbor Fest, sponsored by the Belfast Rotary Club.
Boat building begins at 11:00 a.m. and the relay race begins at 4 p.m

Teams have been comprised of professional boatbuilders, amateur boatbuilders, and mostly never-before boatbuilders.  We have had brothers, brothers-in-law, spouses, father-daughter, professional colleagues, neighbors, uncle-nephew, and cousins compete.   Some have finished, many have not.

The competition was a huge success in Belfast in 2007, 2008, and 2010 to 2016. It has been held in South Carolina for the past 23 years.

Boat almost finishedSM

The challenge involves two-person teams building a 12-foot wooden skiff in under four hours, followed by a rowing relay race. Teams are judged on how quickly they complete construction, the quality of the craftsmanship and their speed on the water in the two-man relay rowing race.  See how to build a boat in one minute (video).

The rules are simple:

Building boats takes concentrationSM
  1. Teams of two compete to build a wooden boat in under 4 hours.
  2. Power and hand tools may be used, but not pneumatic tools.
  3. All materials are provided except for oars (which must be handmade, and the transom, which may be glued but not cut)
  4. All teams are provided with the plans ahead of time.
  5. Teams provide their own tools, worktables, and oars.
  6. At the end of 4 hours, the boats are judged on completeness and quality of craftsmanship.
  7. Then the builders must have enough faith in their work to get into the boat and compete in a relay race in the harbor

For the $100 entry fee, each team receives plans and building materials, a workspace and competes for a first place, second place and third place trophies and prizes. Scholarships are available.

The National Boat Building Competition will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, at Steamboat Landing in Belfast. Judging will take place at 3:00 p.m. The race will begin at 4 p.m. at Boathouse Beach

For more information write: belfastharborfest@gmail.com.

Click here to download the application and official rules for teams entering the August 19 Challenge: 2016 Boatbuilding Application

Complete the application and mail to Belfast Rotary Boatbuilding Challenge, P.O. Box 74, Belfast, ME 04915; or scan and email to belfastharborfest@gmail.com.

Pictures from 2016 National Boat Building Challenge

2016 Boat Builders

Ed Varney, Banker, Team DBT

My experience is dated back from childhood dare when I helped my dad replank a boat I found adrift in front of our lakefront cottage in Falmouth.  Since then my  woodworking has been restricted to cabinet making and simple furniture (hutch, buffet, pedestal dining table) and home improvement projects.

“I’ve never built a boat!”

Scott Conant, Bank President, Team DBT

I was born and raised in Maine and have never left this great state for more than a week-at-a-time.  At age sixty, it has only been the last twenty or so years that I have lived near the water.  So I will understandably accept the classification as a second class Mainer.  My wife and I are very happy to have spent these past two decades of our lives in Damariscotta.

Speaking of the water, I may be experiencing what could be labeled a case of role reversal here.  I have a son who is in the Navy and I may very well be looking to make him proud of me as I participate for the first time in the boat building business.  Although he may say: “Ships matter more.”

Anyways, I probably shouldn’t say this out loud (or in writing) but both my partner Ed and I are career bankers.  This fact may lead to a good chance that a hole mysteriously appears in the bottom of our boat before the launch.

I’m very happy to participate in this auspicious event in support of the Belfast Rotary Club and all the great charitable activities they carry out.  However, I do have an ulterior motive for pretending to be a boat builder.  I have a plan that consists of two parts.  The first is to watch my accomplished carpentry partner build a fine boat.  The second part of the plan, which is the brilliant part, is to take that boat out after he is done so that I can catch a huge tuna fish.

Cody Keithan, Owner, K-Construction

Team K-Construction

Building and design are my passions.  I’ve been working in the construction field for over 20 years, establishing the Belfast-based business K-Construction in 1997.  Our mission at K Construction is to provide quality building, drafting, design, and general contracting services for residents of the unique Belfast area.

This year for K Construction’s annual Halloween celebration I hosted a company pumpkin carving contest.  While I wasn’t going to enter my design into my own contest, I’m too competitive to not participate.  Have you ever seen a jack-o-lantern with a water feature?

It has been a while since we’ve had a construction challenge that was just for fun, and I look forward to the competition.

Matt Converse, Project Manager

Team K-Construction

The first boat I designed and built was in high school, earning my Fine Arts credit for graduation.  Cody and I had worked together on several different projects by then, and as a teenager, I’d much rather spend my time in the shop or on job sites that in the classroom.  A decade later I came back to my passion for design and woodworking and graduated with a degree in Fine Woodworking and Cabinet Building from Eastern Maine Community College.

In the meantime, my Army service taught me some valuable life lessons.  During my time with the Old Guard in Arlington, Virginia there was a constant expectation of precision.  From the shine on dress shoes to exact measurements (down to the millimeter) on ribbon placement on uniforms.  I learned the importance of having something exactly right.  That precision has translated to the woodworking I currently produce for the clients of K Construction.

I’m excited about the competition but it’s been a while since I’ve had to build something that floats. . .  I’ll definitely let Cody have the first leg of the water trial.

Owen Nelson, Surgeon, Team Hope It Floats

Dan Hebert, Surgeon, Team Hope It Floats

We are a returning team this year. Last year we clawed ourselves into third place after a calamitous material failure (of course it was the wood and not the builders).  This year our goals are simple: better, faster, stronger, seaworthy.

We are two orthopaedic surgeons who spend most of our quality time with tools working to repair and rebuild the broken and ravaged bones & joints of the good citizens of the Belfast area.  Today we bring those skills to the realm of wood.

Jason Brassard, Teak Deck Installer, Teak Deck Services

Team TDS

I’m a racer and love competition. I race vintage stock cars with the Wicked Good Vintage Racing Club. Trade school carpenter. After Trade High School I moved to North Carolina to work in NASCAR. I spent 11 years as a race car fabricator and pit crew member “Jackman.” Moved to Maine in 2010, since 2010 have been a carpenter and varnisher on S/Y Belle Adventure. Currently, I install teak decks on yachts.

Phil Huening, Head Installer Teak Deck Services

Team TDS

Grew up in Florida. Always loved to sail. Went to College of the Atlantic and afterward spent 2 years at the Apprentice Shop in Rockland learning the craft of boat building. Currently restoring a 1953 Norton & Sons power boat.

After the Apprentice Shop, went to work for Teak Decking Services until present.

Phil has installed over 100 teak decks, currently awaitinga the birth of his first child.

Married to the lovely Courtney Huening.

Austin Bradley, High School Junior

Team: Bravo

I am one of the Viking Landers “Founding Four” members. I have been captain of the wire team and Drive Team both years. I hope to hold a captain position in the upcoming year, as well. I enjoy wiring and driving the robot! The team strives to make improvements in the community by spreading the word of F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) through community service, presentations, recruiting new team members and promoting 4th -8th graders to join the F.I.R.S.T. Lego League which serves as a feeder program for our team. I have as much fun mentoring the Lego League as I have with my own Team! I want to join the boat building competition because it looks like a lot of fun, it’s something I never saw myself doing, it will get me outside for some good exercise and the best part is the teamwork. We try to get our team involved in as many things that will help us grown as a team and promote our team.

Tori Staples, High School Senior

Team: Bravo

I have been on the robotics team for 2 years, I am also one of the “Founding Four”. The first year I helped program the robot and was nominated for the F.I.R.S.T. Dean’s List Award. The second year I helped build the robot and was the junior captain. In the coming year, I plan to learn and help wire the robot (when I’m not busy being this year’s Team Captain). I joined the team to learn different aspects of engineering, as well as, the values of F.I.R.S.T. “Coopertition” and Teamwork. I believe that have a F.I.R.ST. Robotics team at our school has improved their education and future by giving them hands on learning of engineering and business skills and by showing them that “Yes, I can do this!” I look forward to leading the team in the “new” season. I also plan to co-mentor an FLL Team in our district. I want to join the Boat Building Challenge because it will be a great opportunity to work in a 2 person team as well as put the skills I’ve learned to the test.

Team Mentor: Bud Rivers

Nic Bradley, High School Freshman

Team: Charlie

My name is Nic Bradley. I was on Searsport’s F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League Team for two years. Now that I am a High School freshman, I am a new member of the F.I.R.S.T. Viking Landers Robotics Team. I am looking forward to being on the team because I will have opportunities to make friends and share ideas that will make the team stronger. I have some experience with power tools, hand tools, and carpentry. I had fun at the Boat Building Demo helping build the boat and trying it out even though my mom panicked a little when I got in the water. I want to be in the Boat Building Challenge because I get to represent my Robotics Team and compete against my older brother.

Brian Rollerson, High School Freshman

Team: Charlie

Brian was on the Searsport F.I.R.S.T. Lego League for 2 years. He is entering his third year of being on the Viking Landers Robotics Team. He is captain of the Build team. Brian is active in getting people involved with team activity and a great fundraiser.

Team Mentor: Brad Rollerson

Shannen Fitzjurls, High School Freshman

Team: Alpha

My first year as a Viking Lander was great. I was an 8th-grade volunteer on the “Spirit” Team. I am learning computer programming so I can help program the robot that we build in January. I loved going to competition last year and getting close with my team. Viking Landers has changed a lot of kids ideas on what they can do and be capable of! I’m looking forward to being on the Programming Team. I want to join the Boat Building Challenge because I want to prove I can do it to people – and myself! I am also looking forward to having fun – it sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Daniel McKeon, High School Junior

Team: Alpha

I have been on the Viking Landers team for 2 years. Both years I helped program the robot we built. Throughout the 2 years, I have learned a basic understanding of the “code language Java”. I have also learned how to operate safely in our Build Shop and most importantly how to be a productive member of a team. My team has helped me in return during all of our community outreach events. I continually learn how to promote and advertise a product and our team in a businesslike manner. I’m looking forward to our next robotics competition where we will compete in a new challenge with approximately 50 other F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) teams. I hope the Boat Building Challenge will give me more experience with tools and also with marine construction, as I want to be knowledgeable of that in considering our location.

Team Mentor: Tom Russell

 John Puckett, Boat Builder, French & Webb

Team: Rogues Gallery

I have been working and living on boats since I was about seven. I grew up sailing the east coast and the Caribbean on a wooden boat that my parents built in our back yard. As a professional boat builder at French and Webb, I am really looking forward to building something quick and dirty. It’s been a long time since I have slapped something together with spit and chewing gum. After hours and hours spent agonizing over the smallest details, it will be really fun to slam a boat together and put it in the water in half a day.
Ben Smith, Boat Builder, French & Webb
Team: Rogues Gallery
 I am also a professional boat builder at French and Webb and my reason for entering this contest is to provide my partner with some real down east Maine credibility. There is no way he would be able to provide the crowd with the kind of salty sarcastic remarks that a man from North Sullivan can. I bring years of experience in the building and use of boats as well as a ton of dirty boat related jokes, which is just as important if not more.

Lucas Bolduc, IM Wireless/Verizon

Team: Maineacs

Lucas is a Belfast native and is new to boat building.

Bruno Brizoni, Nautilus

Team Maineacs

Bruno is a Maine native bringing his 66 years of experience to the boat building challenge.

Bobby Staab, Shop Instructor, Croatan High School, Cape Carteret, NC

Team: Champions of the World

Bobby has directed and coached the boat building team at Croatan High School since its inception. His is a National Boat Building Champion. He has won competitions at Beaufort, NC, Georgetown, NC and Belfast, ME.

Tom Russell, Cabinet Maker, Sea Level, NC

Team: Champions of the World

Tom has been a cabinet maker for over 30 years. He has competed many times in the Beaufort, NC Challenge and once in the Georgetown, NC Challenge. He has also been a judge at both the Georgetown and Beaufort Challenges. He has visited Belfast each of the past two years and demonstrated how to build a wooden boat in under four hours.