The Russian Bantry Bay Gig, Penetanguishene, 1994
If you can find a copy of Barns, Beams, and Boats online, it is the foundation story behind this boat. Lance Lee, fresh out of the Marine Corps. in the 60’s, went to Europe to study with Kurt Hahn, then to the mountains of North Carolina to build the first American Outward Bound. Hurricane Island was the second, and with that experience behind him, Lance approached Pete Culler, the venerable boatbuilder. Culler later opined that Lance “talked too much.”
Maybe…but what talk. Lance then went to the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath and persuaded them that the old sail- and oar-powered watercraft, the legacy of the Maine coast, needed attention. So began the Apprenticeshop, and Barns, Beams, and Boats. Soon enough, Lance challenged the fiscal authority of the board of directors by setting out to build a pinky schooner. When they gave him his walking papers, he move on up the coast to Rockport and founded the Landing School. A second pinky schooner, Perseverance, came down the ways there, and a dory, Cussedness, both belonging to Lance Lee this time.
The stroke of genius there was Atlantic Challenge, designed around the profoundly historic Bantry Bay Gig, a French admiral’s longboat lost off the south coast of Ireland in 1796, recovered from a cellar by American servicemen during WWII, ultimately finding sanctuary in an old church at Dunlaoghaire. With a group of French kids working alongside his American students at the Landing School, Lance built two Bantry gigs and put them through their paces at the 1986 Statue of Liberty centennial celebration in New York harbor.
The Russian boat came about because a Russian tourist visiting the Landing shop handed Lance a letter from St. Petersburg, inspired by a magazine article. A log boatshop was built on the banks of the Neva, tools were donated, and by 1994, a nearly finished boat traveled by rail to Murmansk, to be transported to Maine by the Russian Navy, “Nyet!” The resourceful apprentices worked their passage on a Russian-Canadian fishing trawler, disembarking in Nova Scotia with a 38 foot longboat and a large bag of kasha to negotiate through customs. They finished the boat at the new Apprenticeshop in Rockland, arrived in Canada with fresh paint still on their hands and clothes, and allowed us the privilege of rowing and sailing this awesome boat. Thanks.