Church boys build 15-foot-long canoe

Published 1:34 am Thursday, December 21, 2017


As a group of boys at First Baptist Church in Washington built a canoe, they also built new relationships and learned some other things.

“They learned to do teamwork, take direction, follow direction and work with their hands and power tools. That sort of thing,” said the Rev. Greg Hombirg, the church’s youth minister. “They learned some manhood stuff, to be honest.”

The boys also built relationships, he said. “We had several kids who had never really been around each other.”

The boys, part of the church’s youth department, had help from Steve Gravely, who supervised the project.

“As being a father of two boys, I was apprehensive when I was asked by Greg to help our youth group in this digital age to introduce some old courtesies as far as looking people in the face, shaking hands, you know, things wee took for granted in my generation,” Gravely said. “I was kind of apprehensive, but I was pleasantly surprised as soon as we got into the project. They put their phones down and were interested in learning how to do it. … It was inspiring for me because I learned a lot from them.”

Gravely said as the canoe began to take shape, the more confident the boys became in their ability to complete the project. “I think it was surprise at first and pride later. That was one reason I was so interested for it to be displayed. I don’t think they had this concept in their minds: ‘I can make this.’ Older people showed me how to do things. I showed them how to do things,” Gravely said.

The canoe, displayed in the church’s Family Life Center after it was completed, was sold at silent auction, with the money from the sale of the canoe going to support church missionaries serving abroad and future youth projects. The deadline to submit bids on the 15-foot-long canoe was Sunday.

Church member George Piegols took home the canoe with a bid of $300.

“Over the past few months, our boys have been working on a canoe each Wednesday night This process has been more than just a project; it has been a time to discuss scripture and viewing current events Biblically, a time to step away from electronics, look someone in the eye, shake their hand, take directions, work together, learn to use tools, how to measure, and a time to learn the importance of following the directions of both man and God,” reads a document that tells the story of the boat-building process.

“The boys learned how to read pans and how to use basic wood working tools. They also learned not only nautical but boat building terms such as sheer, chine, and gunwales. They also learned how to mix and apply epoxy as well as different painting techniques,” reads the document.

Canoe details

  • Officially, it’s a six-hour canoe
  • It’s 15 feet long, 33 inches wide
  • Weighs 55 pounds
  • Maximum safe loaf of 225 pounds
  • Built using quarter-inch AC plywood and spruce framing
  • Outside of hull covered with fiberglass cloth, an epoxy barrier and a top coat. Finished with two coats of one-part polyurethane sea green paint
  • Inside of hull sealed with epoxy and two coats of spar varnish
  • Assembled using stainless steel screws and epoxy glue


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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