Northern Michigan Attractions: Build Your Own Boat in Harbor Springs

Northern Michigan Attractions: The Michigan School of Boat Building & Marine Technology at Irish Boat Shop in Harbor Springs. 

Build your own boat at the Irish Boat Shop in Harbor Springs and smile from stem to stern. There are probably lots of reasons why you want to learn how to build a boat. Maybe it’s the treasured memory of your grandfather’s wood skiff that you motored around Northern Michigan lakes that awaited you each summer morning at the end of the family dock.

You may have daydreamed of quietly paddling a sea kayak along the shores of your favorite lake. Not just any kayak though; one that you built with your own two hands.Perhaps now is the time to fulfill your lifelong desire to learn the timeless craft of boat building.

Or maybe it’s simply a great way to share an amazing week with your best friend or a family member; the perfect way to add a boat to your collection of memories.

We offer a variety of boat styles so just find the one that fits your dreams and goals! All courses will be taught under the trained eye of noted (and very friendly) boat builder and teacher David Nichols. Work side by side on your boat with a friend or family member and get 50% off the tuition price for your boat building partner!

The pace of these workshops is brisk. And some of the days may be long. No doubt you’ll be tired at the end of the week, but you’ll also be beaming with pride and satisfaction as you and your classmates load up your own boats for the journey back home, back to that favorite lake.

July 11-16

The Willow Sea Kayak

The Willow Sea Kayak is 17’ 8” long with a beam of just under 23”. The average weight is around 44 pounds and the boat is suitable for paddlers from 140 to 250 pounds. While ideal for day paddles, Willow has the volume and solid performance required of a true expedition kayak. Tuition: $570  Materials: $1010 + $130 shipping

Chesapeake Light Craft Stand-up Paddleboard

Why are Stand-Up Paddleboards all the rage?  Because they’re ridiculously fun–like walking on water.Working with surfing and paddleboard guru Larry Froley in California, we’ve created a board with that rare quality of being fast enough to race but stable enough for first-timers.  Tracking is great and a fine bow with kayak-derived shaping lifts the Kaholo up and over waves. Tuition: $570  Materials: $799 + $89 shipping

July 18-23

Chesapeake Light Craft Passagemaker

Here’s a handy boat that can be rowed, sailed, and powered with up to three large adults, and it "nests" to take up less space. The Passagemaker Dinghy is easy to build but looks great and performs beautifully. A smooth glide when rowing, spirited performance when sailing, and steady handling with an outboard mark this latest entry in our fleet of graceful build-it-yourself boat kits.   Tuition: $570  Materials: $1224 + $114

August 1-6

Pygmy Wherry

The Wineglass Wherry (WGW) possesses the wineglass transom and smooth double-ended waterline of a classic rowing boat.When designing her, John drew inspiration from the "beach skiffs" that were common along the New England coast during the late 1800’s.Used in the commercial fishery, folks launched through the surf and rowed out to the fishing grounds. Their narrow flat bottoms enabled them to be parked upright on the beach. Their "planked skegs" allowed them to be more easily built and avoided the added weight of heavy keels. Developed before the advent of power, they were superb pulling boats used year-round in coastal waters. Tuition: $570  Materials: $1359 + $113.15 shipping

August 8-19

Newfound Lawton

The Lawton Tender came about in response to a customer looking for a small yacht tender he could build with strips. The lines were taken directly from John Gardner’s Building Classic Small Craft and modified for cedar-strip construction. Originally designed by Charles Lawton, renowned for his fine tenders and superlative craftsmanship, the tenders had to “row and tow well, be moderately good seaboats, carry heavy loads, yet shine like a piece of fine furniture.” The Lawton Tender will complement the finest yacht or serve as classy little fishing boat.Tuition: $1140  Materials: $2225 + $325 shipping

Adirondack Guideboat

"No doubt Dwight Grant would have grabbed at epoxy and other modern materials to cut weight," says Kenneth Durant, author of The Adirondack Guideboat. Strip-building is an excellent way to easily build a light, strong and beautiful Guideboat. The guide-boat was a fast, light, oared boat pointed at both ends – a cross between a rowboat and a canoe. It was big enough for the guide and his customers but light enough for the guide to take on his own over the many ‘carries’ between lakes," wrote Kenneth and Helen Durant, authors of /The Adirondack Guide-Boat./ Our Guideboat design is derived from the Cole’s Guideboat, 16’2" long with a 38" beam. Tuition: $1140  Materials: $2500 + $325 shipping.

About the Instructor

David Nichols has been building and designing boats for almost twenty years. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, he is the author of three books, A Working Guide to Small Boat Sails, Lapstrake Canoes, and Building the Sea Eagles. He has also written on boatbuilding for magazines like WoodenBoat and Boatbuilder, as well as writing and producing boatbuilding videos. In addition to writing, David also has taught boatbuilding at WoodenBoat School, in Brooklin, Maine for five years and Great Lakes Boat Building School, in Cedarville, Michigan for two years. He has a wonderful ability to convey his knowledge and passion for boatbuilding to his students. When he isn’t writing, teaching, or building boats you’ll find him on the water sailing or paddling the boats he’s designed.

Please contact Dave Lesh if you have questions about registration, location and tuition!

For more information:, or [email protected],  (317) 260-1263