Willow Ribbed Canoe: It Takes a Poet to Build a Canoe

Maggie McBride, Summer Intern
If you want to learn how to build a boat using age old wisdom and not much more than your two hands, this is a great class. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I signed up for the course. I just knew that I love canoeing and the possibility of being able to build my own was very exciting.

It was great to see such a wide variety of people come out to take the course. Everyone was coming from different backgrounds and was taking the course for different reasons, but it was clear that we all cared a lot about the boat. It was a great class dynamic and everybody was eager to try their hand at all parts of building this little boat.

Hilary is a patient and encouraging teacher. Throughout the weekend he took the time to check in regularly with each student ensuring that their questions were answered, that they were happy with what they were doing and that they were not missing out on key boat-building tasks. He spoke with humility and from years of experience.
Much of the work was almost meditative. It required skill and attention to detail, but it was repetitive. There were times when every member of the class was standing around the boat lashing willow ribs together, and it was completely quiet. We were all absorbed.



After the weekend was over and I was reflecting on the whole experience I remember thinking that it made perfect sense to me that Hilary had started out as a poet and had become a teacher and boat builder. The boat we made required craftsmanship, wisdom and obtained a level of elegance that had been lost over time in conventional canoes. It is beautiful what can come out of a weekend investment of a small community of interested and caring people out at Yestermorrow.