George Surgent & the Patuxent Small Craft Guild

George Surgent

George Surgent

You may wonder why a boat-building program is being written about as a personality profile. There are two reasons: If you have ever sailed a boat you would understand that they not only have a personality but also a spirit. The other reason is George Surgent, the museum’s boatwright and in charge of the whole program.

The Patuxent Small Craft Guild is part of the ongoing education offered at Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons Maryland. I met with George a few weeks ago in his small office above the work in progress at the Patuxent Small Craft Center, which is adjacent to the Small Craft Building, which houses about 20 old and restored boats ranging in size from a dugout canoe to the forty-five-foot draketail Penquin.

Dugout canoe

Dugout canoe

The Guild was established and became members of the Museum in 1981. In the early days George became a volunteer to help and guide young people in the fine art of boat building. As the organization grew, George became a paid staff member and today is the Director of the Guild. Sitting across from George at his paper-strewn desk, he obviously appeared to be a very busy man, and he is. His eyes would light up behind his glasses as he told me of his love of boats.

Ped-L-Craft pontoons

Ped-L-Craft pontoons

The Guild is made up of volunteers who are constantly involved with projects from building new boats or restoring old ones. Volunteers and members of the guild usually do the restoration work, while anyone can build a canoe or 12-foot skiff under the guidance of the members. For a fee of $600 for Calvert Marine Museum members and $650 for non-members, you can build a 16-foot wooden canoe. With the “Build a Canoe Appointment” program, you provide them with two days and you can build a boat. The fee includes all materials necessary to complete one canoe and paddles. There is no experience necessary, as the members will guide you through the process.

The Guild also offers a similar class in building a 12-foot rowing skiff. The cost for the skiff is $950 for CMM members and $1,000 for non-members. For an additional $800 you can have a sailing version, including sail, spars, dagger board, and rudder. The classes require two Saturdays and the project is done.

Another project that the Guild is working on is a reproduction of the 1939 Ped-L-Craft. M.M. Davis in Solomons built these pedal boats for the 1939 New York World’s Fair and other locations including Washington, DC (think Tidal Basin) and Philadelphia. A good number of these boats were built in a six-month period and some remained in operation until the 1960’s.

Rowing Dinghy

Rowing Dinghy

On the day I was at the Center, there were about 10 members busily working on the boats that were either being built or restored. Some members were even repairing and putting fiberglass (bad word in that shop) on someone’s rowing dinghy that was paying to have the work done. This is another way the Guild can raise money for the-going programs.

The Center is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and folks are invited to take a look around, or better yet, build a boat.

Written by: Bob Tagert

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