Author: Yonina Foster
Who knew that the mid-summer after hours program “Waves” at the Buffalo Museum of Science, where I learned about sound and waves of all kinds from Science Buffs teaching and sharing, would lead me to choosing a scraper and a heat gun at the Buffalo Maritime Center?
From waves to boats. Who knew? Logical, really.
Which one?” Joan* asked, as she showed me into the tool room at the BMC on Arthur Street in Buffalo. I chose a three sided one and two others to try, and we walked back by the wooden boats on their cradles, stands, and trailers to the “Scajaquada,” a Lake Erie Shallop, a commercial fishing boat found on Lake Erie before the turn of the 19th century.
Before ascending the ladder to my work space Brian Trzeciak, Executive Director of BMC, whom I’d met at “Waves” at his table about boats and the Center, shared the safety rules with me, near the volunteer sign in. The week before, Brian had shown me around the BMC, the length and breadth, the classroom spaces, library, archives, and the longest table in Buffalo. On it plans for the packet boat to be built in a new shed at Canalside will be laid out.
Brian then showed me the warehouse filled with boats of all kinds, including one from the 1901 Exposition.
I’d come prepared with my own mask, glasses, gloves, and work clothing. I added ear plugs to my list for next week’s visit. Up into the boat I climbed and joined Joan. Turned out she ushers at Kleinhans Music Hall where I had just attended an orientation for that volunteer task. We’re also both Amherst High School grads. I briefly pondered the serendipity, these coincidences as I tested the scrapers, preferring the three sided one.
With Joan’s guidance I quickly learned how to apply the heat and not singe the seat, just close enough so the varnish would loosen and I could scrape it clean away. I figured as I helped prepare a boat for its next water days I’d also get a workout. I know with my youth I’m supposed to do weight bearing exercises, and while this activity is not lifting weights, I’m putting my muscles into the work. Surely through the winter months I’ll attain strength, physical and spiritual.
Growing up here in the late 1960s and 70s, we had an eighteen foot wooden boat. I remember some of the fun on the Niagara River, our dog Buffy, named for Buffalo, on Mom’s lap, his dog ears blowing with the wind from the moving boat, sister Donna sitting nearby. Sometimes we’d waterski. So this wooden boat I now took my seat in was not unfamiliar. Nor was the job I began to do, though I suspect it was my father who did most of it back in those days. I began to scrape. The seat. And scrape, and apply heat. Again and again. I noticed as I removed a layer that the one previous was actually applied cross grain rather than with the grain. This surprised me. Soon that layer was gone and I came down to the light color of the original wood.
The beginning. Like the many students who come here and apprentice, I may build a boat at BMC one day. Please, come on down and join us. Curiously, I recently applied for a job as a Science Buff at the Science Museum. Who knows what will be next!
You can learn more about maritime history in WNY at the upcoming Buffalo Maritime Heritage Festival, September 14th and 15th at the Col. Ward Pumping Station.
The Buffalo Museum of Science: 1020 Humboldt Pkwy, Buffalo, NY 14211. www.sciencebuff.org
Buffalo Maritime Center: 90 Arthur Str. Buffalo, NY 14207. www.buffalomaritimecenter.org
*Name changed for privacy