The Voyager was built by Dharma Voyage in 2011 on the lines of the traditional Cornish Pilot Gig. She is 32 feet long and is powered by 6 rowers and one steersperson.
Pilot Gigs were in common use as early as the 17th century on the rugged Cornish coast. They were used as shore-based lifeboats, fast passage makers, and even had an outlaw streak as they were among the fastest boats of their day. The most famed use of the Pilot Gig (and the use from which the name derives) was to bring a local pilot out to incoming sailing ships to guide these deep draft vessels safely through the treacherous, rock strewn waters that guarded the entrances to protected harbors.
Invariably, there would be more than one pilot in each harbor wishing to get the job, so as soon as a sail was spotted, each pilot would gather their broad-shouldered rowers and race out to the merchant ship. To get the job as pilot, they would simply have to be the first one at the site! As soon as one Gig continuously won, all others would be redesigned, resulting in ever faster craft. Going out in any weather, they balanced speed with great seaworthiness. The result is the fast, safe, beautiful boat that we use today.
The Voyager has a few modifications to the traditional design. We use Concept 2 oarlocks and carbon fiber oars (wonderfully light weight). She is built using a modern composite method with thin cedar planks encapsulated with clear fiberglass cloth inside and out – retaining the beauty and spirit of wood, with a lighter hull that requires substantially less maintenance.
Spirit of Westport
Westport High School, in partnership with Dharma Voyage, offered Boat Building in Westport 2018 as a full-semester, tuition-free, course building a 25' Chamberlain rowing dory, Fiona.
Dan Harrington, a WCS biology and environmental studies teacher, took the lead in the classroom. During the winter months, students explored topics such as whaling, history of boat building in Westport, knot tying, model building, river science, boat design, and fishing.
In March, students began working in small groups at the boat shop at Titcomb Brothers Manufacturing on Forge Road. Dharma Voyage Executive Director, Ben Booth and Jon Aborn, both accomplished boat builders, lead this part of the course.