For more than 20 years, Raymond Hartjen and his friends have spent their free time building and preserving the wooden boats that reflect Long Island’s history as a maritime community.
Hartjen, 81, president of the East End Classic Boat Society, said ships and shipbuilding have been a major part of his life since his childhood.
“There’s a challenge working with multiple personalities that [each] have quirks of their own,” said Hartjen. “It’s just a wonderful group of guys and gals.”
This weekend, Hartjen and his fellow members of the East End Classic Boat Society held their 8th annual Classic Boat Fair and Maritime Art Show at their Community Boat Shop in Amagansett.
The fair and art show are held each year to help raise funds for the East End Classic Boat Society and for upkeep on the recently constructed Community Boat House.
“Building is the best example of good carpentry,” said society member David Stiles, 78, of East Hampton. “I love building boats.”
Each year, the members of the society build a wooden boat to raffle off to the public. More than 25 of the handcrafted boats were on display at this year’s fair, which also featured a gallery of artwork portraying the East End’s nautical heritage.
Several of the boats on display dated to the early 20th century, such as an authentic Herreshoff boat from 1921, which is currently being restored.
“I’ve always had an affinity for boats,” said Paula Phelps, 73, a Montauk artist whose work was displayed at this year’s gallery. “I really like the fineness of what they do here.”
The nonprofit club, which has about 180 members, has come a long way since its inception in 1982. After the original boat house was torn down for safety reasons, the members of the club did not have a boat house for more than a decade. In 2006, Hartjen helped get several large donations from anonymous local donors, who helped finance the construction of the new Community Boat Shop.
The Community Boat House was finished in 2008 after Hartjen and other members of the boat society spent two years constructing the building themselves, which is on the grounds of the East Hampton Marine Museum.
Many of the handcrafted boats are designed by members of the boat society. On average, a handcrafted boat takes about six months to a year to build by a team of about a half-dozen volunteers.
The boats are mostly made of Atlantic white cedar, a thick wood that allows the volunteers to cut and shape planks for construction.
“It’s cool to watch the boat take shape from the planks and the keels,” said Chris Schade, 19, of East Hampton.
For Hartjen, the East End Classic Boat Society is a way for Long Island shipbuilders to keep alive a tradition that illustrates the history of Long Island.
“It’s very satisfying to build a boat and finish it and then have the rest of the world come and think, ‘What an incredible job this has been,’ ” Hartjen said. “Look at the things we’ve produced ... putting all these beautiful boats together. It’s a good feeling.”