At the 13th annual Blessing of the Working Fleet, Sunday, July 14, North Haven captains received more than good luck for the season. They also received a wearable knife. The knives and sheath sets, purchased by the 2018-2019 Eastern Maine Skippers class at North Haven Community School, were the subject of a year-long research project for the students.

The three juniors and one senior in the Skippers class spent the school year tackling the question: “Can wearable knife sheaths be redesigned to be more comfortable?” During the process, they met Eric deDoes, owner of Plante Buoy Sticks. Plante manufactures plastic sheaths that can be worn attached to suspenders or belts in case of entanglement.

To work on their redesign, students started with the Plante sheath and explored other knife designs, researched safety in Alaska fisheries, interviewed the North Haven fleet, made several prototypes in SketchUp that were printed on the school’s 3-D printer, and tested their prototypes at Maine Maritime Academy.

They presented their work at a regional final for the Eastern Maine Skippers Program in Stonington in May and took home the Great Idea Award. The award came with a cash prize sponsored by Bar Harbor Bank and Trust for the students to carry on their work, if they saw fit.

When asked how to use their prize money, the students unanimously decided to purchase wearable knives for North Haven lobstermen. Students reflected on how important it is to increase safety on the water and again wrote to deDoes at Plante. The company sold the students the knife sets at an extra discount, so they could buy one for every captain in the fleet.

Junior Kaylee Ames greeted each boat with a knife during Sunday’s ceremony at the Brown’s Boatyard dock on North Haven. The Skippers cohort wishes the North Haven working fleet an extra-safe season.