CRANBERRY ISLES — The Islesford community celebrated the beginning of a new chapter for the town’s waterfront Saturday at an open house and fundraiser for Islesford Boatworks in the building known as the Blue Duck.
The community boatbuilding organization, which is in its 13th summer, signed a 10-year lease of the building earlier this year with the National Park Service (NPS). The lease agreement includes plans to renovate the building for use by youth and adult boatbuilding programs, community events, and a small “chandlery” store carrying marine gear. Under the lease, Boatworks will maintain the public restrooms in the building, which serve the museum next door.
Otis Sawtelle bought the building in 1918, Boatworks co-founder Brendan Ravenhill told the group. “He made it into Islesford’s first museum and Islesford’s first art gallery. It was a place where people could come and be part of the community by being [by the waterfront] where the action was happening. Islesford painters were hosted out of here.”
Sawtelle raised funds to build the brick building nearby, which is now the museum. He donated the land and buildings to the NPS, Ravenhill said, “so this became a little piece of federal property on Islesford.”
This time last year, the NPS put out a Request for Proposals for use of the building.
Several groups visited and walked through the building and determined the necessary renovation and maintenance work would be too expensive. “Most wise people walked away,” Ravenhill joked.
“But some people from the community got really excited. Boatworks’ amazing board got together and decided to take a giant leap of faith to put in a proposal to say, ‘Hey, we’ll do this. We’ll raise our hands. We’ll take this building on the waterfront and we’ll figure out how to bring this building back into our community.'”
A fundraising goal of $80,000 has already been met, he said. Saturday’s silent auction raised an additional $9,750.
He thanked the gathered group for their support, and asked for a moment of silence to honor Boatworks board member Hugh Smallwood, who died unexpectedly earlier this year.
“Hugh was a big part of this program,” Ravenhill said. “At one point, early on in the program, when we weren’t sure we had the steam to keep it going, Hugh really came in and pushed hard and brought in his best friend Peyton [Eggleston].
“They said, ‘You’ve got to do this. This is too important for the kids,'” he continued. “He was so instrumental in getting this thing going and he had such a bold vision.” Boatworks received an “outpouring of support from the community in [Smallwood’s] honor,” Ravenhill said.
Renovations are well underway. Former Boatworks participant and apprentice Hunter Hewes, who recently graduated from architecture school, designed plans for a new interior layout. He and instructors Mike and Allison Yanover worked for the last several weeks on the first stages: removing first-floor walls, installing a small kitchen area and adding reinforcing beams.
The beams were cut from trees on the island donated by the landowner. Hewes and the Yanovers milled them on site with a chainsaw using a technique known as an Alaskan chainsaw mill.
On Saturday, Aug. 11 at 3 p.m., Boatworks will hold its annual end-of-summer boat launch. The boat is Bridge, a St. Ayles skiff that was begun by a school-year program on Great Cranberry and finished by Boatworks participants on Islesford over the summer.