Preparing Boys for Life.

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Building a Boat
Grayson Potter '18

For my senior project, I teamed up with John Nelligan and Tyler Roland to build a rowboat led by our Associate Headmaster, Mr. Thorburn. John, Tyler and I all loaded into my father's Denali and headed to Maryland to pick up the marine plywood as well as the other products and accessories essential to building the boat. The first three days of this project consisted of meticulous measuring and cutting the pieces that we needed for each step along the way such as the bottom, sides, seats, etc. This was no doubt the most challenging and stressful part mainly because the measurements had to be exact. The same motto kept repeating every time we measured a new piece: “Measure twice, cut once.” 

Within the first week, we finished the sides and bottom of the boat and buttered them with our batch of epoxy peanut butter. During the first few days of the second week, we attached the sides to the back of the boat using a stitch-and-glue method. This method required no screws or nails, just copper wire holding the sides to the back together, and epoxy, to let it harden over the wires and hold it there. We then attached the bottom to the sides of the boat and stitched and glued all of that in one day. After stitching and gluing it all together, we sanded it down to prep it for the first coat of epoxy and fiberglass. After making multiple large batches of epoxy, we started to spread it around the inside of the boat and waited for it to dry. The next day we went back and flipped the boat to overlay down the fiberglass strips over the cracks and seams and coat that with more epoxy. After those coats dried, we sanded the inside and the outside and put even more epoxy on it. Epoxy is the name of the game -- it is what makes the boat float and prevents leakage or tearing from weak points on the seacraft. Finally, before we tested it, we had to make a skeg which gives the boat traction and helps it turn. On the final day, we brought the boat over to the School's pool for its maiden voyage, where it passed with flying colors. 

My experience with this project was bar none one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in Haverford's hallowed halls. The thing that made this project and experience so valuable to me was pushing through the adversity. There were many times where we as a group got so frustrated that the measurements didn't make sense, or the cuts were not perfect, that we freaked out, and when that happened, the other person in our group calmed us down. It was truly a great bonding experience. There was something so satisfying looking at that boat and then looking around it and seeing what my team and I had accomplished, and that was really what made me so proud of myself and the guys I did it with. 

On the final day, we brought the boat over to the School's pool for its maiden voyage, where it passed with flying colors. We went through something truly difficult, pushed through that adversity, and came out with a piece of art. 

This project not only promoted the essential qualities of a Haverford School Graduate; rather, it brought them to life for me. Intellectually, this project required each individual partner to think critically and creatively. We had to come up with many different means to make ends meet in terms of pieces fitting when they were too short or too long. Communication, as with any group project, plays a crucial role in the outcome of the project. For us, it was key to our efficiency of the project and the craftsmanship of the small but very artistic part of the boats, such as the seats and rub rail. 

This project helped me develop a deeper passion for learning because this was the first time I used wood and created something truly amazing. The outcome really did make me more eager to do more things like building a boat and to learn all about how to build all sorts of different things. Through this project, I have learned to respect others because when one of us went down, I knew that one of the other guys in the group was there to pick him up and tell him to keep going. It also really made me respect the guys I was with even more because we went through something truly difficult, pushed through that adversity, and came out with a piece of art. 

In our group each individual guy had a different skill set that we appointed tasks to in order to speed up the process as time was getting thin. Tyler and Mr. Thorburn led John and me with grace, and we followed with compassion and open ears. 

Self-knowledge is an essential quality that we have fulfilled and promoted because not only did we take joy in our accomplishments but we also congratulated each other on a job well done. This project required perseverance through the learning and building process --not quitting when the job got tough and when we didn't understand how to manipulate the wood. I valued the hard work that was presented in front of me and did not shy away as I had before. Instead, I faced it head-on and pushed through one challenge at a time. This taught me how to work and study and that when it doesn't seem worth the effort, looking back on it, it will almost always be worth the amount of work that was put into it. Nobody ever said that it would be easy, but they did say it would be worth it and this project really was worth the effort. I learned how to better collaborate in groups, because in our group each individual guy had a different skill set that we appointed tasks to in order to speed up the process as time was getting thin. Tyler and Mr. Thorburn led John and me with grace, and we followed with compassion and open ears. 

This project has been one of the greatest things I have ever done at The Haverford School, and I would like just to say thank you to John and Tyler for doing it with me, as well as to Mr. Brady and Mr. Upton for letting us do this. Finally, thanks to Mr. Thorburn, for being patient with us and guiding us through every step that we needed help on through his busy days.