Student skippers: Teen sailors take to East River in handmade boats

Brooklyn Paper
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Ahoy!: The middle-schoolers have been building their boats since October.
Landworthy: From left, Chase Johnson, Joel Watson, and Skylar Jackson test out their boats before hitting the water.
The big moment: The pint-sized captains get ready to hit the high seas.
They’re off: The ships hit the East River!
Results are in: All of the boats sailed flawlessly on the water.

It’s their first step toward first mate!

City students sailed into the East River on their own hand-crafted wooden vessels on Friday to mark their graduation from an eight-month boat-building course, and even the biggest landlubbers among them earned their sea-legs, according to program organizers.

“Very few, if any of the students had been on a sailboat before, so being in boats that were separated from the water with one sheet of plywood was a great experience,” said Marjorie Schulman, the executive director of Brooklyn Boat Works. “They got to see New York in a different way.”

The sailboats, which pushed off from Brooklyn Bridge Park, were built by middle-schoolers from seven schools across Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, who began their nautical education last October by learning the science of boat-making. The sailors-to-be then worked together to craft their 7-foot-6 Optimist dinghies out of four pieces of plywood.

All of the vessels turned out to be seaworthy when they took to the water — not that Schulman ever had doubts.

“Nothing sank,” she said. “Although we knew that would not happen. It was great.”

The boat works rep said that, in addition to their new sea-legs, she hopes the students will float away from their voyages on the murky waterway with a deeper appreciation for education.

“The most important thing is we instilled a love of learning,” she said.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:58 pm, July 9, 2018
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