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Alternative Education Schools

Alternative Education Students Gain Career and Life Skills through Ponderosa High School’s Boat Works Program

By Students Andrew Lemus and Brianna Villar


Boat Works students

Ponderosa Boat Works is located on the campus of Ponderosa High School and Green Careers Center in Ben Lomond. It is an Alternative Education classroom, working under the umbrella of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, and closely affiliated to the Regional Occupational Program. The program is designed to raise student awareness of possible careers in Santa Cruz County’s maritime industry while repairing, restoring and building boats on the Ponderosa campus. Once repaired, restored or built, the students launch the same vessels and become proficient in handling them in open water.

Boat Works students

The Boat Works program promotes the practical application side of mathematics and carpentry skills. A priority is placed on the safe and proper use of hand tools and small power tools. This will hopefully evolve towards developing and applying the craftsman’s eye to finish work and the more complex issues of compound joinery and planking. The students maintain an ongoing journal of nautical vocabulary, questions, rough drafts chronicling their plan towards project resolution, and task analysis prioritizing the steps involved in their current repair, restoration, or construction. Throughout the process, students expand their ability to tie the knots necessary to assist in their nautical development.

Boat Works students

*El Toro is an international class of sail boat, an 8' pram developed in San Francisco Bay in 1938. A pram is a short vessel with a blunted bow, a transom or flat faced surface.

**The phrase "ash breeze" refers to times past when ships were completely dependent on the wind. When the wind died, and the ship could not move, the sailors had to break out their oars and row. Oars were made of white ash, and rowing was back-breaking. Therefore, when you get ahead by your own get-up-and-go, you "sail by ash breeze".



Ponderosa Boat Works has already completed a small rowing dinghy, Smalls, (launched December 7, 2012) and has made repairs to four other El Toro prams*, enabling them to row the vessels at numerous ash breeze** regattas. Monthly field trips have exposed the students to the business side of our county’s marine industry. Speakers from Down Under Dive Service, Ballinger’s Rigging, Pacific Yachting, and the Santa Cruz Port Authority have graciously allowed students to visit and learn about their specific maritime operations. Paul Tara, local sailing legend, has visited the school and provided Power Point presentations about marine safety and navigation, as well as the history of sailing.

Boat Works students

*A tender is a smaller rowing/sailing vessel towed behind a larger vessel.

**Iokas are wooden connections between canoe and outrigger float.


Currently the Ponderosa Boat Works is putting the finishing touches on a double hulled Fiberglass El Toro for a south county sailor. They are progressing on a 1910 Kennebec (a canoe company still in operation) canvas covered canoe, where it is hoped that the owner will come and direct the recanvasing of the vessel. Their next restoration, Almost Zen, a 1970's El Toro/tender* made from mostly recycled and salvaged parts, is now in its reconstruction phase and it is hoped to be ready for rowing and sailing by the year end regatta. The Boats Works is also refinishing paddles and iokas** for the Santa Cruz Outrigger Club, where once a month they practice with the club, aiming towards a possible coeducational entry in the Aloha Days Outrigger Regatta in Santa Cruz this August.

Boat Works students

In February, 2013, Ponderosa Boat Works was featured by Sailing Editor, Deiter Loibner in Soundings Magazine, a nationally syndicated magazine dedicated to boating.

Find out more information about Ponderosa High School and Career Training Center, or contact Carol Polhamus at (831) 336-9338.


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The Santa Cruz County Office of Education provides quality educational programs and services to a diverse community.