The arrival of JR Jennings and Angus Fake on Chewonki Neck this week was a sure sign that Chewonki’s 2018 summer season has begun. Jennings, who will lead this summer’s counselor-in-training program for Camp Chewonki for Boys, and Fake, who as “Papa Osprey” will lead the oldest campers, are here early to prepare for a special assignment: along with their other duties, the two will lead the boatbuilding activity for seven-week Osprey campers (ages 13, 14, and 15).
Sometimes at Chewonki, things happen that seem almost magical. The coming together of these particular counselors to lead Osprey boatbuilding seems almost too good to be true. Garth Altenburg, director of Camp Chewonki for Boys, knew he had two excellent counselors he could count on, to lead boatbuilding well. But Jennings and Fake joke that Altenburg may not have known how perfect their assignment is for them. Jennings is an environmental engineering major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Fake is majoring in industrial design at Pratt Institute. They are a dream team for camp boatbuilding.
“In classic Chewonki fashion, I am handing them the opportunity to do this and I trust them to do it well,” Altenburg says. “They’re very motivated and excited.”
Because of time constraints and the reality that most of the boys involved will be boatbuilding for the first time, “We’re trying to do a lot of the preparation before the campers arrive,” says Fake. Following wooden patterns created by Scott Peterson, former head of the boat shop, Jennings and Fake are spending the week cutting plywood sheets and pine boards into stacks of pieces that nine Osprey campers will put together to create their own 14’ open kayaks. The boys will take their boats home with them at the end of camp.
In a world where gratification often comes from a mouse-click and the internet pulls us away from the physical world, Jennings and Fake are looking forward to getting their campers excited about the hard, rewarding work of constructing a wooden boat. “It’s good for them to know that it takes a lot of time to make things, especially to make things well,” says Jennings.
Being an Osprey boatbuilder requires commitment. Campers spend six to eight hours a day during the last two weeks of Session II constructing their crafts. They launch them together once all are ready and, by tradition, paddle to the summer’s last Sunday Service on the Point.
Jenning grew up in Massachusetts; Fake in Maine. Both recognize that their chances to spend a summer at Chewonki are dwindling as the end of college looms, one reason why they chose to be here this summer.
This will be Jennings’s ninth summer at Chewonki. Altenburg appreciates that as leader of the counselors-in-training, Jennings will be mentoring younger counselors.
Fake grew up knowing about Chewonki but last summer was the first time he had spent time on the Neck. “I fell in love with the community,” he says. Because he goes to college in Brooklyn, New York, he is grateful to be in Maine for the summer.
“These are two outstanding young men,” says Altenburg. “They worked well together last summer and we are glad to have them here again. They’ll run a great boatbuilding program.”
Boatbuilding is an elective for seven-week Ospreys. Campers sign up on a first-come, first-served basis. The nine available slots for 2018 are already filled.