July / August 2022

A Lifetime of Apprenticeship

Kevin Carney’s practical approach to teaching at The Apprenticeshop
Kevin Carney


Kevin Carney, himself a 1980 Apprenticeshop graduate, has been an instructor for 35 of the institution’s 50 years.

Walk through the back doorway of The Apprentice­shop in Rockland, Maine, and you are immediately confronted by a mass of sculpted mahogany tapering overhead to the fine-lined counter stern and delicate transom of an Irish racing class known as the Dublin Bay 24. Inside the hull, two apprentices are crouched in the bilges with a folding rule, a roll of string, and a 1 spirit level working out where to punch a hole through the planking for the offset propeller shaft. This is always a complex operation, and in this case there is little in the way of guidance, save for a low-resolution CAD drawing of the engine in place. No instructor is on hand to demonstrate technique or provide advice. The apprentices are getting on with it despite a mortal fear of screwing up a really nice planking job.

Just beyond the Dublin Bay 24, which is a fine-ended 38' yacht built to a 1938 design by Alfred Mylne, other apprentices are pouring hot pitch into the bilge cavities of a nearly completed lobsterboat. The faired hull is sharp and sleek, with white primer on the topsides and dark green antifouling paint below the waterline. A well-used roll of plans on the workbench states that this is a “26' Cliffy Boat, as used in lobester [sic] fishery, southern end of Matinic [sic] Isl, ME Late 1930s through 1950s.” Clifford Winchenbach, builder of the original Cliffy boat, was knocking together reverse-raked transoms well before they appeared in the AMERICA’s Cup contenders of the 1950s, and this one suggests that no improvements have been made since that time. A high-powered fan set up on the foredeck and an air-filtration unit mounted directly above the boat are running on their highest settings, though neither seems to be making much of a difference to the acrid, oily haze rolling off the freshly poured pitch.

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