By Howard Meyerson
In the tiny eastern Upper Peninsula town of Cedarville — population, 253 — a small group of students is working on a project for the U.S. Navy. As unlikely as that might sound, it is equally remarkable and true.
They are first-year students at the Great Lakes Boat Building School, a private institution that teaches the essentials of wood boat building to young and older students who want to pursue careers in that field. This is the second time in three years GLBBS students are building something of national significance.
This season, they are working on a 32-foot Cornish pilot gig for the USS Constitution, the oldest ship in the U.S. Navy — and oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat in world. The 304-foot, three-masted wooden frigate was launched in 1797. It was named by George Washington himself.
The gig is expected to be completed soon. It will be transported in June to the 23rd annual Wooden Boat Show in Mystic Seaport, Connecticut. Then, it will be delivered to the Constitution’s captain and crew in Boston.
“I’ve told the students that it will be seen by millions of people over its lifetime,” said Patrick Mahon, the school’s program director. “This project not only gives the school national exposure, but it also exposes our students to the maritime history of the country. A lot of our students don’t have that connection.”