In the Spotlight: Boat Builder William Skelly '18 Launches the Courage

       “There is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” according to Kenneth Grahame, the Scottish writer of The Wind in the Willows fame. 

William Skelly ’18 would agree. Last spring William, 18, who has been sailing since he took a course on the Charles River at Community Boating in Boston four years ago, built his first wooden sailboat. His intent was to create a small sailing craft at his home in Carlisle that he could store in his garage while keeping to a budget of $1000.

The result is the Courage, a 15 ½ foot Surf Crabskiff that William named for his mom, Margaret, who passed away last summer after a long battle with cancer.  

William shares his experience building his boat in the April 2021 edition of Small Boats Magazine, a monthly web-based publication. In it he explains that the craft was designed by a prolific boat builder, the late Phil Bolger of Gloucester, MA. Another boat builder, Richard Zapf, lent Will several books and mentored him during the process.

When William learned how to sail, it was with a group of Fenn classmates: Alex Krusell ’18, Michael Lang ‘18, and Nathan Lang ‘19. They continue to sail together and can’t wait to get on the water this year.  

Fascinated since a child by problem solving and acquiring engineering and design skills, William was active in makerspace activities at Fenn, which has an innovation lab. He has continued to pursue his STEM interests as a student at Concord-Carlisle High School, where he has chosen to learn fully remotely this year.

William builds and flies contest-winning balsa-and-tissue scale model airplanes as a member of the Flying Aces Club, an international organization with area chapters. This little known hobby, he says, “had its heyday in the 1930s and involves a lot of engineering/makerspace thinking.” William tackles other engineering projects for fun; last summer he retrofitted an old point-and-shoot camera to capture biofluorescence. He’s a certified SCUBA diver, diving in New England with the MetroWest Dive Club, and an avid fly fisherman. 

William looks forward to launching the Courage again this season. Light and easy to maintain, the boat allows him to “hop in the car and head off to another adventure,” he says. “No fuss, no fees, just wind and water, wood and sailcloth.”

You can read the article about William’s boat here:


Contributed by Laurie O'Neill



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