When Eric Levenson ’15 studied abroad in Zanzibar, he became fascinated with the local boat building trade. He spent time with fishermen on the Zanzibar shore, learning how to make boat models.
When he returned to Bowdoin, Levenson began apprenticing with Dick Pulsifer ’62, who has been building boats in Maine since the wooden boat renaissance of the 1970s. Pulsifer, who has had nearly 20 Bowdoin apprentices, started his apprenticeship program with Michael Woodruff ’87, director of Bowdoin’s Outing Club.
Levenson’s apprenticeship turned into a film program when two other seniors — Rita Liao ’15 and Lucy Green ’15 — became interested in the subject. On May 12, the three students screened their 25-minute documentary, Hull 111, at Bowdoin.
Liao’s connection to boatbuilding came through her connection with Robert Ives, Bowdoin’s director of religious and spiritual life, who is an experienced boat builder. For 33 years, Ives ran an apprenticeship school in Pemaquid, Maine, called the Carpenter’s Boat Shop. Laio said she wanted to use film to explore the link between boat building and spirituality, while Green said she was looking for an opportunity to do an independent film project.
They documented Pulsifer, Levenson and others finishing the 111st Pulsifer Hampton Boar from start to finish. But the true story revealed itself through time. “We knew we wanted to film the boat from beginning to end, but we didn’t know what it was going to be about,” Green said. Not too long after beginning filming, the three students began to realize why Pulsifer has revived the apprenticeship of boating. Pulsifer feels that a hands-on approach is perfect for Bowdoin students, who don’t often get the chance to work with their hands.
Plus, boat building offers other lessons. Liao said she connects to a quote from Ghandi that Ives shared with her: “Haste is violence.”
The boat is set to be completed two weeks from Bowdoin’s Commencement ceremonies this May.