Prepare to Launch

Sometimes the humblest objects have a surprising amount to tell about the history and culture around us. A modest trapping boat, for instance, became a focal point for a recent Winter Term course titled, “Vermont Waters: Maritime History and Aquatic Culture of the Champlain Valley.” The deceptively simple boat offers a window into the lives of Vermont dairy farmers who once built them to generate trapping income during the spring months.

In the classroom, Prof. Dan Brayton, a specialist in maritime literature, introduced works of environmental, cultural, and material history, as well as works by environmental novelists—all focused on the waters of Vermont. After class, students built a replica of one of the trapping boats under the guidance of Vergennes-based boat builder Douglas Brooks.

So how does a boat built by novices in four weeks hold up in water? Well, it’s tough to find open water in January, but fortunately there was space for a launching ceremony at the College pool…

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