The students, teachers, and staff of South Bristol School and members of the community gathered at Bittersweet Landing Boatyard the morning of Tuesday, June 14 to watch the launch of two skiffs built by SBS students.
SBS seventh-graders Nuala Glendinning and Aiden Seiders and eighth-graders Galen Daly-O’Donnell, Jarrett Gulden, Emma Scott, and Braxton Farrin built two boats through a partnership with the Maine Maritime Museum.
In previous years, only the eighth-grade class participated in the program. The seventh- and eighth-grade classes paired together this year due to the size of the classes. The program will take a year off next year.
Each Friday, the students would travel to Bath for the Maine Maritime Museum Boat Shop Discovery Boat-Building Program. The students began the school year building smaller projects, such as toolboxes, before moving on to building the two boats.
One of the boats, the Bagjen, was named using the first initial of each of the student’s names. The other, Rusty Red, was named for its color, Principal Scott White said.
The morning started off cloudy and windy, which may have contributed to the sneeze boatyard owner Mike Nyboe let loose prior to the launch. The entire crowd responded with “God bless you.”
School officials discontinued the tradition of inviting a clergy member to bless the boats in 2013 after the school received a warning from attorneys representing Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, an organization in Washington, D.C.
In the letter, the organization directed the school to end the blessings of the fleet, saying the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits public schools from sponsoring prayer at school events.
Nyboe said he believed there was a lot of pollen in the air, causing him to sneeze.
The program was made possible this year due to the support of the Nancy and Herbert Burns Foundation.