Sunday, September 9, 2012

Another new beginning...

The Fall season has kicked in with a vengance and the school where I teach has just started it's year with sign-ups for classes. As an instructor, I typically arrive about an hour before the sign-up actually starts to get organized, and to hear necessary announcements from the administration.  I'm always impressed because when I arrive, there are already long lines of students waiting at the front and side doors to sign up for the classes - sometimes reaching down to the street and along the sidewalk from the front door and along the sidewalk all the way to the back of the parking lot and wrapping around on the side doors.  Some of these folks have been waiting for hours and have brought folding chairs, books and beverages.  As an organization, we're getting better at the this, and students seem to be getting better at the waiting game.

My DW was waiting in line to sign the kids up for some of the youth program classes at the school.  A woman in front of her asked my DW and the other woman next to her if they'd hold her space while she went to get a cup of coffee at a nearby cafe.  Both women said, sure - if she'd pick them up coffee, too and offered up the money for their cups.  Community spirit, I say!

I'm always a bit apprehensive at sign-up because I never know if I'm going to fill the class that I'm teaching.  If I don't meet these minimum enrollment standards, the class doesn't run, which would be disappointing.  As many of you know, I've been teaching cedar-strip and fiberglass canoe construction for the past several years.  There are some issues teaching this class in the facility where I teach in terms of space, the cost of materials to the students and the time required to finish a boat.  This year, I was more apprehensive than usual as I'm teaching a new class and had no idea what the interest would be.  The new class will be skin-on-frame boatbuilding and should be lower cost to students, easier to do in the facility and quicker build times.  I was concerned that people wouldn't have the same "draw" to these boats that they do to the beauty of a bright finished wooden canoe, but they seem to recognize the unique features of the skin-on-boats including those listed above and light weight among others.

My fears seem to have been unfounded.  I had a full class by the end of sign-up.  A good sign.

One concern that people seem to have about the skin-on-frame boats is durability.  I'll admit that when I was building my sea kayak, I had that at the back of my mind - that is, until I saw this video from John Petersen of Shaman Kayaks:

I found this to be completely true when I went to Maine with my kayak this summer.  The Maine coast is unforgiving in that it is particularly rocky.  The launching area where I was putting in had rocks, coarse gravel, broken shells of various types, barnacles, periwinkles and other hard, sharp objects.  With the skin-on-frame boat, it's light - so you simply pick it up to put it where the least dangerous area is and even when I hit these things, there was only a small scratch - the skin flexes rather than rips over them. 

So, to my new students - welcome aboard!  It's going to be a memorable adventure!

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