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Boat project builds skills

Students put math, business skills to the test building vessels from scratch

BUTTE FALLS ' A trio of student boat-builders are eager to take their pair of hand-crafted sailboats out on Willow Lake for their maiden voyages.

I have dibs on the first one, said Brandon Zartman, future sailor and senior at Butte Falls High School.

Local volunteer Chris Mathas says having the students build boats ' which could be rented for a profit at the nearby lake ' is the perfect opportunity to meld an exciting student project with a budding commercial venture. The plan could benefit the entire community, he says.

The boats are looking great, and the kids are having a ball, says Mathas, the project's founder and funder.

The three seniors ' Brandon Zantman, Caleb White and Dillon Ross ' initially were leery of the project when approached by Mathas. Neither they nor the 50-year-old Mathas had ever built a boat, they say.

— I was kind of skeptical at first, said Zartman, 18. But Chris explained it would be a learning experience for all of us.

A learning experience that has taught the students practical applications for geometry, trigonometry, history and business management, says Mathas.

White, 18, says the hands-on learning experience has been fun and educational.

This teaches us a lot of skills we wouldn't have had just building random projects in shop, said White.

Mathas told the students they would tackle the project from scratch. No prefab kits, they agreed.

Beginning with scale models made of wood, epoxy and fiberglass in September, they moved on to building the two 12-foot skiffs last November

Work on the second skiff started on Feb. 15, says Mathas.

The ships' masts are local timber, says Zartman.

Chris cut the masts from a tree that was on his property, he says. And I stripped all the bark off.

Patience has been Mathas' mantra, says White.

He's got a lot of patience, says White. We screwed up a lot of things on these boats before we got it right.

Zartman says building boats has been a lesson in patience for all.

We were putting on lots of layers of fiberglass, he says. It took patience to go over and over it and keep all the bubbles smoothed out.

Zartman is proud of the crew's achievements.

At first I thought we were going to build some cheap-o boat, says Zartman. But they're pretty cool ' and pretty sturdy, too.

Butte Falls High School Principal Steve Pine says Mathas' enterprise has sparked the kids.

A logo-creating contest for the project was a big success with the district's non-boat-building students, says Pine.

It's a great project, says Pine. We are very grateful for Chris. He put this together for us.

Mathas has spent nearly &

36;4,000 on materials. He also spent long hours getting help from the school board, concessionaires at Willow Lake and various Jackson County officials. All are on board for the upcoming mini-regatta, he says.

People are coming together, says Mathas. The goal is to have these boats on the lake by the last day of May and to have a race.

An experienced sailor has volunteered to give them all lessons, Mathas says.

We'll all learn how to sail safely, says Mathas.

Pine would like to see Mathas' program continue.

We'd like to stretch this program into a bigger professional/technical component of our teaching, says Pine. We'd like to see more of this student-run enterprise.

Now Mathas would like to see the community embrace the project. It could provide Butte Falls with a unique identity, he says. Rogue River has the Rooster Crow, Shady Cove has Daffodil Daze, why not an annual Fleet Week with racing events at the lake, Mathas wonders.

Mathas is looking for someone affiliated with a nonprofit organization who would be willing to help the school and community find grant funding, he says.

Mathas can be reached at 865-3414 or chrismathas@jeffnet.org.

Boat project builds skills "sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Butte Falls High School seniors Brandon Zartman, left, and Caleb White craft the second of two sailboats they are building to sail on Willow Lake. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell