The Builder in Residence Program (BIR) is returning for the 2023 season, though it may look a little different to those familiar with it in the past.
The 2023 Project
This summer, visitors will have an opportunity to watch a St. Lawrence sailing skiff be built from start to finish. The program will begin on July 3rd and culminate on September 9th with the skiff’s launch and shakedown. The original, a 22-foot sailing skiff built between 1885 and 1888, came from the Adirondack Great Camp Pineknot built by William West Durant. It was donated to the Museum in 2008 by Jack Sheltmire of Cortland College. The skiff was built by A. Bain & Co., one of the earliest builders of St. Lawrence skiffs. Dr. Alexander Bain (1843 -1926) originally worked with Xavier Colon, who is credited by many with building the first example of what is called the St. Lawrence skiff. The firm of Bain & Colon existed until 1885 when Dr. Bain “purchased Colon’s interest” (according to the 1885 catalog) and it became A. Bain & Co, with agents in Boston and New York. Dr. Bain also ran a boat livery in Thousand Island Park.
In 1888 A. Bain & Co. became the St. Lawrence River Skiff Canoe and Steam Launch Company. Considering its early date of manufacture, this skiff is surprisingly advanced, with very fine entry lines, tight plank laps, and the
distinctive smooth-lap shape in the front of the boat. It must have been very fast, and was probably made for sailing skiff races. It is also a fancy skiff, with large decorative brass tacks, and a socket for a flag pole at either end. The mast partner is unusual, seemingly made individually and not a casting. The small socket on the starboard side near the stern is to hold the butt of a fishing rod. A clip let into the opposite outwale would hold the stem of the rod for trolling. The “No 1” on the bow deck identifies the boat as a livery craft.
In addition to being locally built and a fine example of a Saint Lawrence skiff, this vessel was selected to add another option for on-the-water experiences. The 22′ Bain is large enough to take a second person out to either learn or just experience the only boat type in the world that sails without a rudder. With three sailing skiffs in active use, ABM has the opportunity to resurrect skiff races and
demos for those that would like to try the sport or just watch from shore.
ABM’s BIR program will continue every year in the summer with the goal of constructing a boat from start to finish over 10-12 weeks.
Builders and proposals will be selected by ABM staff through an application process. This year’s selected builder is Joseph Connor. Connor spent a week in summer 2022 sailing Whoosh around the River, and was immediately hooked on skiff sailing and the boat’s construction.
Questions about the Builder in Residence Program? Contact Master Boatwright Michael Gorman at 315.686.4104 ext. 232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2023 Boatbuilder in Residence
Joseph Connor is a professional boatbuilder who has specialized in building and maintaining traditional wooden boats for the past 18 years. He is drawn to the comradery, complexity and tangibility of watercraft and humbled by the expanse of lifetimes one could spend mastering the art of the trade. While focusing his skills in wooden boatbuilding, he had the opportunity to redirect his enthusiasm to successful projects in furniture making, surfboard shaping, cabinetry and as captain of schooners. Joseph has spent the last eight years at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, most recently serving as lead shipwright on the construction of a 17th century pinnace, the Maryland Dove. The 50-ton reproduction vessel was commissioned for the state of Maryland in 2019. Three years and $5 million later the ship was launched in June 2022. Often found in the forest, working a sawmill, or in the shop, Joseph is most content balancing on a board in an ocean.
A Fitting Memorial
If you knew William “Bill” Kaiser, you
knew he made a long-lasting impact on people. His legacy and his impact on ABM is especially felt this year with the return of the Builder in Residence program, which Bill spearheaded.
Memorial gifts are meaningful to the
museum, the donor, and a thoughtful
way to honor someone special. If you would like to make a gift to the Builder in Residence program please call Behare Taylor 315.686.4104 ext. 226, or make your gift online by clicking here.