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February 24, 2014

Prep students build wooden boat

DANVERS — St. John’s Prep is known for its academics and sports, but for the past few months, members of the engineering club have been learning what it takes to build a wooden rowboat.

It has been a challenge building the 131/2-foot, flat-bottom “Sissy Do” skiff. But with the boat nearing completion, the process turned out to be a good way for physics teacher Marcus Soule, who also advises the engineering club, to give students a hands-on learning experience.

“I was trying to find one project everyone would be interested in and could work on,” Soule said. He learned that senior Joe Caruso of Reading had built a boat with his dad, Joe Caruso Sr., and had interned last summer with Lowell’s Boat Shop in Amesbury, helping to build a 28-foot whaleboat.

“I went to Joe and said, ‘Hey, I would love to build a boat. Could you teach me how?’ And Joe said, ‘Sure,’ and that’s how we got started,’ ” said Soule, who is learning how to build the boat at the same time his students are.

The other boat builders include freshman Matt Gray of Marblehead, junior Brady Bernstein of Newfields, N.H., freshman Matt Arsenault of Dracut and sophomore Josh George of Marblehead.

Gray not only comes from a town with a long history of boating, but his father, Brian, is founder and president of inflatable boat maker Ribcraft USA, which is based in Marblehead.

“I’ve built Ribs with him before,” Gray said, “but I’ve never built a solid-side boat before.”

In the past few months, the students have painstakingly turned a pile of lumber into a rowboat. For about three months, they worked after school at Danversport Yacht Club Marina.

Two weeks ago, the operation moved into a former facilities office in a campus basement.

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