In his first week as interim executive director of The Carpenter’s Boat Shop in Pemaquid, Nat Shed learned everything he knows about boats. But, of course, The Carpenter’s Boat Shop offers more than boat-building lessons, and he looks forward to fulfilling the organization’s mission to nurture lives, build boats, and help others.
Shed grew up outside Buffalo, N.Y. and moved to Maine after college. He worked in the nonprofit sector for over 30 years before finding the fulfillment he was looking for running summer camps.
When he decided to retire from a leadership position at the Friends Camp in South China, Maine, he met with a friend and personal development coach who advised him to work with College Guild in Brunswick, which offers nontraditional correspondence courses to prisoners across the U.S.
Shed attends Quaker meetings in Portland with his wife, where a friend told him about the interim position at the boat shop.
Shed accepted the position as interim executive director of the boat shop in June, after the Rev. Kim J. Hoare resigned from her position as executive director.
As interim executive director, Shed will provide temporary oversight and management of the boat shop while a hiring committee searches for a permanent executive director. He will spend the next five months maintaining ongoing projects and advising on changes at the evolving organization.
“When you’ve run five nonprofits, you start to develop an understanding of what needs to be done,” he said. “You see organizations in a different light.”
In his first week of serving the boat shop, Shed learned about the culture of the community and gained a sense of the shop’s 40-year-old traditions. He spoke about hospitality, worship, work, service, and reflection, the values of the boat shop, which are structured around the sixth-century Rule of St. Benedict.
While the roots of the boat shop are based in Christianity and both of Shed’s predecessors, the Rev. Robert “Bobby” Ives and Hoare, are ordained ministers, the boat shop welcomes people from all denominations and all walks of life.
“The spiritual element to the boat shop is self-directed,” Shed said. “There are no priests, just community.”
The boat shop was established with this core value of community in 1979, when Bobby Ives and his wife, Ruth Ives, established the program. After spending three years as ministers and teachers on Monhegan Island and three years at the Methodist churches in New Harbor and Round Pond, the Iveses wanted to create a “family-community school” based on boat-building and community service.
With the help of community members, they transformed an old chicken farm into an intentional community for people to learn how to live and serve others.
Over the years, the boat shop community has evolved with its apprentices, clergy members, visitors, and the demands of boat work. The nine-month apprenticeship program at the heart of the boat shop’s work invites people 18 or older to labor in building boats, taking care of facilities, and participating in meal preparation.
For people going through a transition in their lives, the apprenticeship gives them the space to learn about community, boat-building, and wellness. Apprentices learn to use tools and build two small boats.
Beyond their lessons in boat-building and seamanship, apprentices might restore a wooden dinghy, shingle one of the buildings on campus, mentor children at nearby Bristol Consolidated School, prepare staff dinners, or stack firewood for neighbors.
“The majority of apprentices come in without any boat-building experience and they leave with a greater sense of self,” Shed said.
Shed will spend the interim period advising the apprentices and assessing the current situation of the boat shop. Most aspects of daily life at the boat shop have not changed since it was founded, such as the community tea break that happens every weekday from 10-10:20 a.m.
The tea break offers apprentices and volunteers a break from their work and gives visitors from the community a casual introduction to the boat shop.
“Everyone who knows about the boat shop community knows when tea is happening,” Shed said. “Tea break is about hospitality.”
In his first week at the boat shop, Shed learned that the program offers people a unique opportunity to explore questions of community, self, and spirituality. “It already feels like home,” he said.
The public is welcome to visit The Carpenter’s Boat Shop, during tea break or otherwise, at 440 Old County Road in Pemaquid. To learn more, go to carpentersboatshop.org or call 677-3769.