Author, boatbuilder at Apprenticeshop

Feb 14, 2018
Douglas Brooks built this boat with Nobuji Udagawa, who once ran one of six boatbuilding "houses" in Urayasu, Japan.

Rockland — Douglas Brooks, a boatbuilder, writer and researcher who specializes in the construction of traditional wooden boats, will give a public lecture Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. at The Apprenticeshop, 655 Main St.

Brooks has apprenticed with seven boatbuilders in Japan since 1996, building more than a dozen types of traditional boats. He will share his experiences learning the traditional craft of Japanese boatbuilding; and also talk about the nature of craft education in Japan.

Brooks has made 20 trips to Japan since 1990. His research focuses on the techniques and design secrets of the craft — techniques that have been passed from master to apprentice with almost no written record. The way craft is taught in Japan represents an ethic that is largely at odds with Western notions of teaching. The apprentice system produced craftspeople with incomparable skills, yet it required an intense devotion and seriousness from participants.

Last year, Brooks apprenticed in Gifu, Japan, where he built a 42-foot cormorant fishing boat, working alongside an 85-year-old boatbuilder. These boats are still used by a handful of fishermen who continue a thousand-year-old tradition of fishing with cormorants. In 2015, Brooks apprenticed with the last boatbuilder active in the region struck by the 2011 tsunami. There he documented the most common small wooden fishing boat of the Tohoku region, an area that saw 90 percent of all boats destroyed in the disaster.

Brooks worked in the Small Boat Shop at the National Maritime Museum in San Francisco from 1985 to 1990 and since has built boats at museums in Japan and across the United States. He teaches classes in boatbuilding and has written regularly for magazines such as WoodenBoat. His most recent book, 2015’s “Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding,” is the first comprehensive survey of Japanese boatbuilding, spanning his first five apprenticeships and including a chapter on Japan’s last traditional shipwright. Brooks will sell and sign copies of his book after the talk. To see photos of his boats and learn more about his research, visit douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com.

Entrance to the lecture is $10. For more information, contact Journeyman Nina Noah at 594-1800 or ninanoah@aprenticeshop.org.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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