Stem2Stern’s newest boat, built in just one week at the Upper Deck Youth Centre in Tillsonburg, successfully launched Saturday morning at Lake Lisgar.
Stem2Stern brought a couple extra skiffs to the official launch allowing the age 12-14 builders opportunity to row on the water at the same time.
Dominic Paton, 12, who had a hand in building the 12-foot, two-oar, flat-bottom boat watched from shore.
“I’m never going to get on a boat,” Paton had emphatically stated.
“That’s what he said when we first got here and were launching it,” smiled Rayburn Lansdell, Satellite Director at Tillsonburg Youth Unlimited YFC.
“I had a fear of getting on boats,” Paton explained.
A few hours later Paton was rowing the last boat back to the dock with 14-year-old Carter Humenuik.
“You went on the Kin barge first, right?” said Lansdell. “You went on a tour of the lake.”
“I went on the big boat, then got off and went on the little boats,” Paton nodded.
“And then he said, ‘I could stay here all afternoon,’” Lansdell laughed.
It didn’t take long to learn rowing techniques.
“It’s tricky at first but really, it’s not that difficult,” said Paton.
Whether going forward or reverse, the boaters made their way from the dock to the bridge and safely back.
“Jonas (Maier), he actually preferred to row it backwards,” said Lansdell.
“I just tried not to flip it,” laughed Maier, from Germany, a volunteer at Upper Deck. “I think the big part of it is like it’s pretty flat. It’s not like a canoe where you really have to stabilize it.”
Paton said he enjoyed the boat-building experience, learning how to use the power tools, and the camaraderie working with friends at Upper Deck.
Eight youth worked on the bottom, oars, seats and frame, with gluing, sanding, planing and painting all required.
“I was using a handsaw, routers, sanders…” said Paton.
“We went 9-3:30 each day,” said David Vine, founder of Stem2Stern. “When the weather was good, we built in the Upper Deck parking lot and when the weather was bad, then we went inside.”
“They were great,” said Lansdell, noting Youth Unlimited’s Buck Buchner was also ‘coaching’ them each day. “The eight boys were pretty well all there by 9, and they’d have a great little conversation at the start, and then they were into work right through until 3-3:30 every day, half hour lunch break.”
“They continued to be engaged and everybody said ‘yeah, I’m coming back tomorrow,’” said Buchner. “It’s such a change from the video games they might be at all the time. I thought they might go into withdrawal or something.”
Tillsonburg Youth Unlimited (YFC) had the option of buying and keeping the boat at a very affordable price ($850), but elected to send it back with Stem2Stern.
“We’re kind of undecided, but for now it’s going back to Stem2Stern,” said Lansdell.
The boat did not get an official launch-day name, but Lansdell figured ‘The Deck 2’ would be appropriate.
“Maybe this is ‘The Lower Deck,’” Vine suggested.
Saturday’s boat launch was a community event. In addition to the Kinsmen Club’s Kinship 1 barge, from which Frank Kempf gave tours of the lake (explaining the revitalization work that has been done), the Tillsonburg Rowing Club had shells on the water (and a visit from star rower Kubet Weston) and did a lunch-hour barbecue. They were also joined by community kayaks, and even a peddle boat.
“This morning when we got here there were probably 50-60 people here,” said Lansdell. “Parents, grandparents and other people from the community. You think about what that says to these kids, it’s just pretty cool.”