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May 3, 2010
Article

Eastport Boat School is "alive and well—and thriving"

by Bob Gustafson

The Boat School in Eastport is alive and well-and thriving. We're on a great growth curve," says Dean Pike, adjunct faculty member, former senior
boatbuilding instructor, and current clerk of the Friends of The Boat School.

Indeed, the school has come some distance from the time when Pike and Bret Blanchard were the entire teaching staff, and the school was barely hanging onto its existence. Formerly affiliated with Washington County Community College in a stormy relationship, the school is now affiliated with Husson University and has settled into a stable existence.

The Boat School also achieved recognition last fall with membership in the Marine League of Schools.

Founded by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), the league is composed post secondary, technical marine schools, and is described by ABYC as a "small group of select schools located in the major geographic regions of the United States." The Boat School is the fifth member.

In January the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology set up shop on The Boat School campus with an eye to a collaborative arrangement.

Boat School Director Bob Turcotte says, "We have had a very productive year here at the school. The graduating class built two, 16-foot composite catboats and they all have jobs waiting for them upon graduation. The freshman class completed two wooden Whitehalls and are all returning for their [final] year. We look forward to the start of the next year."

Boat School Dean Greg Miller says, "We expect an enrollment next fall of between 35 and 40 students. We have two full-time faculty, six adjunct faculty, a shop assistant on-site, and a student services director."

Miller says, "We look at industry needs and modify our programs accordingly. In that process we depend heavily on our advisory committee composed of representatives from the marine trades. We want to hear directly and clearly from the industry about issues like employment growth, for example."
He notes that the school now offers wooden boat construction, a composite program, and a mechanics and systems program. "These are the areas we're currently focused on." He adds that the student body continues to come primarily from Maine but with a significant number from out-of-state.

"One of the things we're working hard to do is to keep tuition as low as possible for students who want to go to a good school and remain in the marine trades," Miller says, adding that current tuition is approximately $8900 a year all inclusive. Students also receive a tool kit and drafting equipment that they get to keep when they graduate. "We're also prepared to help with financial aid and scholarships."

The Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology's expansion to Eastport, in space on The Boat School campus is another positive step. Eastport joins Annapolis, Maryland, Mystic, Connecticut, and New York City as Westlawn sites. Westlawn's parent company is the ABYC.

"Right now the Boat School and Westlawn are two distinct entities," says Miller, "We're looking at ways to integrate curricula, but it's very much in the exploration stage. We appreciate being able to join the Marine League of Schools."
Westlawn Director Dave Gerr says of the move to Eastport, "We share the same space, and we share the same goals."
"All the connections between Westlawn, the Boat School and Eastport are remarkable," says Garr. "We're looking forward to working in The Boat School buildings and to developing future programs with Husson University and The Boat School. These connections will further enhance the learning process and offer even better service to the boating industry."
Gerr said that through the Internet, boat school students and Westlawn students can interact by means of discussion forums. He added, "Over time we may well be working on programs with Husson, but this could take several years to develop."
As it happens, The Boat School Director Turcotte is an alumnus of The Boat School and Westlawn.
The Boat School currently offers four programs in marine industries:  One-year Certificate in Boatbuilding Technology; One-year Certificate in Marine Composites; One-year Certificate in Marine Mechanics and Systems; and a Two-year Diploma in Boatbuilding Technology.
Miller concluded, "Husson is very committed to doing the right thing. We want to be good community members." And he added, "We're still accepting applications for next September and will be until July."

Bob Gustafson is a freelance writer who lives in Eastport.

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