ST. MICHAELS, Md., Sept. 22, 2022 – A crowd gathered at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s dock on Aug. 3 to see Caden Lewis and Cinnamon Girl off on a quick sail around St. Michaels Harbor months in the making.
The local 16-year-old devoted his summer to fixing up the 16-foot, two-sail bateu crabbing skiff, and that morning, he finally hit the water, accompanied by CBMM volunteer Don Boehl, with appropriate fanfare from an audience of CBMM shipyard crew who’d witnessed the boat’s restoration.
“It was a feeling of relief, like, ‘I did this,’” Lewis said. “I did it, some by myself and some of it with other people, and working so hard on that boat, it was really special to me to finally get it done.”
The moment was a testament to Lewis’ growing passion for the trade and the skills that he’s developed in recent years at CBMM, first as a member of its Rising Tide youth program and lately as a volunteer eager to chip in around the shipyard.
Lewis first sailed Cinnamon Girl, built in 1995 based on a historic design, last fall during the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival, and while the boat remains a work-in-progress, he’s excited to be able to showcase his efforts to bring it back to life at the latest MASCF, which runs Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at CBMM.
“The main thing I learned through this project is that everything is not going to be done in one day or a month or even two months,” Lewis said. “You have to really take it day-by-day and trust in the work that you’re doing.”
Lewis has been a regular around CBMM since joining Rising Tide as a sixth-grader. That first year, he helped build a pair of Smith Island skiffs as part of the after-school program.
Since then, he’s learned a lot by watching, talking to staff and volunteers, and lending a hand at every opportunity.
“It’s a second home for me,” said Lewis, now a junior at St. Michaels High School. “It’s a safe place to go, it’s somewhere to take your mind off things and it’s somewhere you can go learn.
“I’ve learned so much there, from Rising Tide, being around for the Maryland Dove build, and working on the floating fleet. I go every chance that I get. For me, it’s one of the best places to be.”
Last summer, Shipyard Education Programs Manager Jenn Kuhn asked Lewis to be a youth volunteer at the shipyard. He excelled in that role, and when he asked to fix up Cinnamon Girl in the spring, Kuhn had no hesitation offering the green light.
“I’m just proud of him,” Kuhn said. “That he’s been so engaged and dedicated to this work is a testament to his character. He will go far because he’s very inquisitive, and thoughtful, and interested, and he’s not afraid to put himself out there.”
Once part of CBMM’s rental livery, Cinnamon Girl was in need of TLC when Lewis went to work.
After school let out for the summer in June, the teenager made the bike trip to CBMM every day that he could around responsibilities helping Capt. Ed Farley on the historic skipjack H.M. Krentz and a volunteer role at the St. Michaels Fire Department.
Over a period of weeks, Lewis led repairs to the stem, rub rails, and transom, among other refurbishments. While painting, he discovered a rotten plank that added to the hours.
It was a difficult job made easier by the family environment at CBMM, he said.
“It really put into perspective that I can use what I’ve learned in Rising Tide and put it into action,” Lewis said. “I’m proud of all that I was able to do by myself, and of course, I have to thank all the people that helped guide me along, too.”
A few weeks after Cinnamon Girl returned to the water, Lewis got a visit from Kevin Brennan.
Brennan built the boat nearly three decades ago using largely found wood and plans from noted maritime historian Howard I. Chapelle via the Smithsonian Institute.
He’d sailed it around the region, including many visits to St. Michaels Harbor for the annual fall races, before selling it to Mike Moore, who eventually donated the boat to CBMM.
Brennan was happy to answer all of Lewis’ questions about Cinnamon Girl and see it sparkling again.
“It meant a lot to learn that not only somebody took an interest in it, but it was a 16-year-old who worked to bring it back to life,” said Brennan, who has been faithfully attending MASCF since 1989. “It’s just really cool that CBMM has allowed Caden to do this and given him the tutelage that he’s needed to learn by hands-on experience. It gives hope for the future of small craft.”
Since Brennan sold the boat, the nameboards have hung above his home office in the Baltimore area. He was proud to present them to Lewis last month, and they’re now back on the boat for all CBMM guests to see.
“When I was working on the boat, in the back of my mind, I was wondering if it had nameboards to it,” Lewis said. “Now people will know, ‘That’s Cinnamon Girl. That’s the boat Kevin Brennan built. That’s the boat that Caden Lewis rebuilt.’ That’s a really good feeling.”