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Restoring Old Boats is More Than a Hobby for Newport Students


Clark Poston has dedicated his life to two great loves: sailing and teaching how to build and restore old wooden boats. "I often heard people who are enamored with wooden boats say that it has a spirit, a bit of a life, something beyond that molded peace of plastic floating over there. I think that's true, when you cut a tree and mold into it a couple things go in it: the level of skill and the craftsmanship involved."

Clark Poston is the Program Director at the International Yacht Restoration School, IYRS, located at the heart of Newport's harbor, in the eastern state of Rhode Island.

Created nine years ago as a vocational school to teach the history, skill, and art of restoring, maintaining and building classic boats, the two-year school program with its 32 students has restored and sold over 80 small classic yachts.

"These 3 boats, one of which, this little sail here is a restoration of an old hull, the other two over in the corner are new boats that the gentlemen are building," says Poston, remarking on boats in the shop.

Students come from all over the U.S., Canada and Europe. They range in age from 18 to 59. Hank Drude spent the last 23 years working in the insurance industry. Now that he’s learning to build new boats, he says, "Fortunately Clark has built another, similar boat and he has been my tutor along the process."

David Toldman has been a high tech executive for the last 30 years. Now he is in love with the shape of boats. Poston and Toldman look at a computer model of boats. "Yeh that's the boat. So you can shade different aspects with different colors," Poston says. "Yes I can make different color on here," Toldman replies.

Clark Poston says many of his students are older; most of them are already mature and have decided to change the direction of their lives. "We have everything from mid-life crisis and divorce, to weddings, babies obviously coming and going, it's even gone to the point where a students proposed to his fiancé on his knees, on graduation day."

The passion for the magnetic beauty of old boats leads to some ambitious challenges: This is "Coronet", a major multi-million dollar restoration project that could take up to 10 years.

Susan Daily, Project director, says, "She is the last of her kind for the golden age of yachting. It's an 1885 schooner, 133 feet on deck, 190 feet overall."

Students, professors and sponsors hope to see the Coronet back at sea within the next five years. In the process of the restoration, students will learn a lot more than just fixing a fancy old yacht.

"The skills associated with the students here in the two year program are transferable to modern boats as well," school President, Terry Nathan says.

In fact the graduates have been so successful in the maritime industry that the school is planning to expand within the next two years. The restoration of this old mill will give them the physical space. Clark is working on the new curricula. "The first one will be a joinery program, interior joinery all the furniture, galley, head, salon. The other is systems, the mechanical part: power, engines and generators," he explains.

Clark Poston feels enthusiastic about the future. And his dream of sailing the Coronet around the globe one day, looking just as it did in 1885, is getting closer to reality.

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