Central Valley High School SkillsUSA Marine Craft Project

The Central Valley High School SkillsUSA team is working on a project restoring a 1959 Chris Craft speedboat. They have partnered with the Inland Empire Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society. It will most likely go through next year. They had it set up at the boat show last week and it got lots of attention, including an article in the Spokesman. They’ve set up a website with a blog for people to track their progress.

SkillsUSA is an after-school club similar to DECA without a cash register, or FFA without cows. It offers its members an opportunity to learn skills outside the classroom. Central Valley High School teachers and SkillsUSA advisors Alan Wardsworth and Ron Beard wanted to present a new challenge for club members, and this led them to Craigslist and an ad for a 17-foot Chris Craft. It needed work, but it was inexpensive for a mahogany speedboat, and the advisors saw it as an opportunity for club members to learn wood-working and engine repair skills.

The ad had been placed by John Whitcomb, a member and former board member of the Inland Empire Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society (ACBS). The Chapter’s outgoing president Daryl Reynolds had been lobbying members for an expanded mission statement that would include the support of educational opportunities that create meaningful projects/experiences for students. Both Reynolds and Whitcomb understood the rarity of skilled crafts-people in the Inland Empire. The Wood Boat Shop and StanCraft did not have a local, ready-trained source for skilled craftspeople.

The Craigslist ad led to a response from Wardsworth and an invitation to inspect the deconstructed Chris Craft. Whitcomb learned from Wardsworth and Beard that the boat’s renovation would be carried out by high school students with no boat building experience. Refurbishing a classic mahogany wood boat would be something new.

“The SkillsUSA program will at least,” thought Whitcomb, “expose its members to this potential elite career with the hope of creating some interest in boat building, restoration, and finishing. These are good-paying positions for kids who are not interested in college and other careers.”

The outcome of the meeting was the Chris Craft, complete with a marine engine, a box of parts, and a rusty trailer left Whitcomb’s shop behind Wardsworth’s truck. It was Whitcomb’s contribution to Central Valley’s SkillsUSA program.

The business end of the project included the boat’s reconstruction and refinishing. Reynolds joined Whitcomb in committing the chapter to providing expert advice from its members and others in the classic wood boat community. They offered to organize tours of noted wood boat building and restoration shops in the area like StanCraft in Hayden, Idaho, and The Wood Boat Shop on Blackwell Island. And, the chapter presented Wardsworth with an ACBS membership that would provide SkillsUSA members access to the ACBS DVD archive that includes a wood boat restoration tutorial.

In Central Valley High School’s shop someSkillsUSA members cleaned the boat, removed loose parts, labeled them, and identified missing parts. Others worked on the engine, sourcing parts, locating materials, and searching the internet for helpful information regarding the art of mahogany wood boat restoration. They are future craftspeople who will build, refurbish, and refinish antique and classic wood boats for the next generation.

The boat will become part of another story of generosity. Spokane Boat Show President Scott Thompson (also a member of Inland Empire ACBS) has committed to buy the renovated Chris Craft, use it as a raffle prize during the 2020 Spokane Boat Show, and contribute the proceeds to Central Valley’s SkillsUSA program.

Whitcomb’s boat just keeps on giving. The project was even featured in a article in the Spokesman Review.

CVHS Website: https://skillsusa-cv.com

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