When looking around for boat building schools two years ago, I chose NWSWB because of an article I saw on the website about the Felicity Ann restoration. I was impressed that the school was able to bring in such an interesting project, but having no concept of the amount of time it takes to do an intensive restoration, assumed FA would be long gone by the time I became a student. I was therefore ecstatic to find out upon beginning my boatbuilding education that not only was Felicity Ann still there, I would be able to participate in the restoration during Winter and Spring term.
As a former history major, working on this project has been my first chance to engage with historic research outside of a purely academic setting. It was amazing to spend an evening reading Davison’s books and researching the history of the ship, and then the next morning walk up the hill and have that boat there right in front of me (even if we spent that entire first month cutting it to pieces, but that’s beside the point!)
There were of course times when the project became incredibly frustrating. One day, we discovered after dozens of unsuccessful tries at establishing a deck centerline that the backbone of the ship had twisted over time, and there was no way to get our deck beams lined up perfectly. I remember Jesse showing up the next day with a chainsaw and a can of gasoline and thinking for one wild moment that he’d just had it with this crooked little boat. (Thankfully, they were for another project!)
The good moments far outweighed the frustrating ones. Learning to work effectively as a team for tasks like planking has been incredibly rewarding, as has conquering my fear of the giant saws. We also had quite a small team working on FA at any one time, so we’ve been able to see each other’s boat building skills improve as the term progressed. The best example I can think of is going along the line of carlin joints we carved for our spur beams. You can easily tell where we each carved our first notch, they’re all a little gappy and we even had to pop a wedge in here and there. But as you go down the line of notches, you can actually see the joints get tighter and tighter as our precision improved.
My favorite part about this project though has been the wonderful community surrounding it, from the folks at the Community Boat Project, to the school administration and instructors, to the many, many people who have worked on her in the past. We’ve even had photos and plans donated from a gentleman who worked at the yard where Felicity Ann was built. I’m sure this community will only grow from here on out and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it.