Build Boat and Sail

submitted by Adam Burks

Suttons Bay, MI – Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) is seeking area youth to participate in a free boat building program. Beginning January 11, 2020, youth ages 8-12 can participate in a three-month Opti-Pram Sailboat Building Workshop. Classes are held on Saturdays from January through March at the Great Lakes Discovery Center campus in Traverse City. Students can earn a scholarship for a 2020 Traverse Area Community Sailing (TACS) class to learn how to sail the boat they build. The workshop is free, but space is limited and registration is required.

Students work in small groups with professional instructors and trained volunteers to build two opti-pram sailboats. The boats then go into the TACS fleet for sailing instruction. Students learn project management, shop safety, woodworking, and small tool use in a safe and welcoming environment. “These programs are one of the ways we create a love of the lakes, and hopefully future stewards. There is something about using a vessel that you built that makes you want to preserve the body of water so you can continue to be on it,” said Fred Sitkins, Executive Director of ISEA.

Any youth age 8-12 is eligible for the free workshop, but space is limited to ten for the course. Fred Sitkins added, “The one-on-one attention that students receive, along with the teamwork learned, during these workshops also benefit the students who participate.” To register for the free Opti-Pram Sailboat Building Workshop, contact Adam Burks at or 231-620-1148. Adults interested in working alongside students in this program may also contact Adam for more information.

In addition to the Opti-Pram workshop, adults can assist with other ISEA boat shop projects such as a coracle building workshop with students, restoring and re-rigging a lapstrake sailing skiff, and building a new staysail boom.  Any adult (experienced or not) interested in being part of these projects is welcome to come learn and participate. Contact Adam for more information.

Inland Seas Education Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Suttons Bay, Michigan, dedicated to STEM education on the Great Lakes. Its shipboard and shore-side education programs are designed to inspire people of all ages to provide for the long-term stewardship of the Great Lakes. ISEA offers programs to schools, groups, and the public. For further information, contact Inland Seas Education Association at (231) 271-3077 or on the web at