CHINATOWN — Weeks of hard work were put to the test Wednesday when kids from the city's first boat building camp took their new boats out on the Chicago River.
Wednesday was the last day of the Chicago River Boat Building Camp, a two-week course for kids to learn hands-on building and rowing skills. Held at the Canal Street Marina, 2129 S. Canal St., it was the first year of the camp, which is held in cities throughout the country, according to organizers.
The group of 13 boys and girls aged 13-17 spent the two weeks not only working with their hands, but also learning about the river, its ecology and the benefits and joys of boating, said "Captain" Toby Lindow, one of the main organizers of the camp.
"We're trying to get them a little taste of it," said Lindow, of Albany Park. "Make it part of their life, because it changed mine."
Campers who worked on the blue boat signed it upon completion. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]
The kids built two boats, painted them, named them and even inscribed them. Eric Erling, 13, of Hyde Park, said his parents have a boat that they sail on Lake Michigan. But boating never really got his interest until he built one, he said.
"It was hard but fun," he said. "A little frustrating when the nails bent. The best way to learn is to do it."
Their final lesson was how to successfully get in a small skiff boat, which the kids mastered before setting out for a short row on the river. Judging from their enthusiasm, and that of the volunteers, the project was a success.
"These little buggers built these boats," Lindow said. "We're proud of that."
A group of campers test out the boat they built. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]