Courtesy of Hudson River Maritime Museum
There’s a special school in Kingston that will teach you how to craft a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard out of wood—even if you failed shop class.
One of the joys of living in the Valley is the access to water, whether that means kayaking along a serpentine creek or canoeing on the eponymous river itself—magical experiences akin to gliding through a Frederic Church or Thomas Cole painting.
But there’s another joy possible: building a boat—a skill that can be learned at the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s (HRMM) Wooden Boat School in Kingston. Geared for students of all levels, the classes deliver an incredible payoff. You leave with your very own “I made it myself” vessel.
“The amazing thing about these boats versus store-bought ones is that they’re so slick, light, and gorgeous,” says Becky Sellinger, manager of the Boat School. “They are so fast on the water, not like those factory-made plastic things.”
This is, in fact, one of the school’s key goals: “We want students to come away with a beautiful project that they can use and take pride in,” says Sellinger. “We want them to get in touch with tradition and their innate ability to build with their hands.”
Founded in 2015, the school was a natural extension of the museum’s mission to preserve the area’s rich maritime heritage. After a successful partnership with the sloop Clearwater, the HRMM’s leadership and an group of local boatwrights were determined to establish a boatbuilding school. Then, serendipity struck. Rosita’s Restaurant next door to the HRMM closed and it just happened to provide a lofty space that would be perfect for such pursuits. The eatery evolved into the Wooden Boat School.
Among those who were instrumental in the creation of the school, says Sellinger, were Wayne Ford, a local shipwright and now the school’s lead instructor, and HRMM Board member Dr. Jack Weeks—a physician, timber farmer, and boat aficionado. Dr. Weeks’ sawmill supplies much of the lumber for the classes. It’s live-edge wood, meaning it still has the bark intact on the boards, connecting students more deeply with the natural beauty of their materials.
Current classes include building your own stand-up paddle board (4-day course) and skin-on-frame canoe (6-day course). Visit hrmm.org or call 845.338.0071 for pricing and more information.