Southold High School seniors Joe Berry and Bradley Mellas hopped aboard a duck boat early Tuesday morning and sailed into the Peconic River, taking the boat’s maiden voyage.
The trip was special for Joe, who spent a year building the boat during free periods and after school meetings of the high school’s technology club.
“It felt good,” Joe said. “It went faster than I thought it would.”
Joe’s unnamed boat, which he’ll use to hunt duck and geese this season, was joined by another duck boat, named Gale, built by technology education teacher Matt Pfister and other students in the technology club.
The boats, which students worked on during study halls and after school — sometimes staying until as late as 6 or 7 p.m. — were made possible by private money, donations and fundraisers, Mr. Pfister said.
Before being launched onto the river, both boats were christened with the traditional breaking of a bottle of champagne and foliage was placed aboard them for safe passage. But finishing touches still need to be added before they’ll be ready for hunting season. For example, grass will be added to the flaps so the boats blend into the shoreline.
“They will go in small little waterways like this, up in the crevices, and they’ll sit beachside while people hunt out of them,” Mr. Pfister explained.
In addition to using his boat recreationally, Joe will show off his hard work next month at the 37th annual duck boat show and waterfowl festival in Babylon.
Each of the boats began as pieces of plywood, Mr. Pfister said. The students worked with fiberglass and resin to build the boat and fit it for the needs of the waterways and those using it to hunt. The six students in the club created designs, worked from plans and lofted the lines of the boats as well.
“The most difficult part was the sanding and the bondo [filling cracks in the wood],” Joe said, adding that his favorite part was working with the fiberglass.
Mr. Pfister thanked the community, students, parents, the Board of Education and school administrators, many of whom were in attendance at Tuesday morning’s launch, for making the long-term project possible for him and the technology club members.
“A lot of people pass this tradition on in a way,” Mr. Pfister said, noting that Southold was founded in 1640 as a fishing and farming community. “We want to show the kids how it’s done and how to hunt.”
Photo caption: Southold technology education teacher Matt Pfister (left) and Southold senior Joe Berry with the duck boats they spent a year building with the school’s technology club. (Credit: Nicole Smith)