New Carpenter’s Boat Shop manager looks to the future


Sonia Turanski, the new executive director of The Carpenter’s Boat Shop, in her office on February 4. Turanski plans to adapt the boat shop for the future while staying true to its traditions. (Photo by Evan Houk)

Sonia Turanski, the new General Manager of The Carpenter’s Boat Shop at Pemaquid, wants to propel the organization into the future while continuing to honor its founding principles.

Turanski understands how important the seven rules of Saint Benedict are to the mission of the boat shop. The Bristol nonprofit was founded in 1979 by Bobby and Ruth Ives with these seven Benedictine principles in mind: Work, Worship, Study, Service, Leisure, Hospitality and Prayer.

However, Turanski also understands the need for the organization to evolve to ensure the sustainability of the nine-month, tuition-free boatbuilding apprenticeship program. The shop and its programs are funded primarily by donations and the sale of wooden boats and other accessories handcrafted by the apprentices.

“There’s a whole other part of the community that doesn’t really know we’re here or what we’re doing. So I can’t wait to change that. I think we have a lot to offer,” Turanski said in a Feb. 4 interview.

Turanski, who started working after the new year, also understands the community focus at the boat shop and is looking to increase local outreach and volunteer service in his new role.

Some new things she would like to implement are different kinds of open workshops for the community, teaching things like canning, painting or music. She would like to hear from locals about what they would like to see offered.

“What other things could the community want that I’m not aware of?” said Turansky.

The main workshop of The Carpenter's Boat Shop, at 440 Old County Road in Pemaquid.  The organization invites visitors to stop by at any time, especially during the daily community tea break in the workshop from 10 a.m. to 10.20 a.m. (photo Evan Houk)

The main workshop of The Carpenter’s Boat Shop, at 440 Old County Road in Pemaquid. The organization invites visitors to stop by at any time, especially during the daily community tea break in the workshop from 10 a.m. to 10.20 a.m. (photo Evan Houk)

Boat shop apprentices already volunteer as part of the organization’s core mission. They mentor students at Bristol Consolidated School, shovel driveways for neighbors, and repair homes during the summer with a church group from Basking Ridge, NJ.

There is also a shed set up by CHIP Inc., an organization founded by the late Ruth Ives, on the sprawling Boat Shop property, an ad hoc exchange where anyone can drop off or pick up furniture or appliances .

Turanski said the boat shop’s first apprentice was a young boy whom the Ives family took in after being left alone by his father. In the decades since, The Carpenter’s Boat Shop has continued to provide a safe haven from the storms of life and an “extended family” for anyone growing, changing and in need of support.

“Regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation, The Carpenter’s Boat Shop attracts those who are willing to work hard, live simply and share their work and life with their community,” the nonprofit organization’s website reads.

Turanski believes her working life in self-advocacy and her experience as an artist and craftsperson prepared her for her new position.

Immediately before applying for the job, Turanski was working for AmeriCorps as a program director for a division called Maine RecoveryCorps. In this position, she worked with people in recovery or struggling with addiction.

Turanski was based in Ellsworth, but worked in eight counties in Maine, traveling frequently.

Turanski said she identifies deeply with the open mission and welcoming atmosphere of The Carpenter’s Boat Shop. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Masters in Comparative World Religion.

“Although this place has its roots in Christianity, it has somehow moved away from Christianity. People are hungry for meaning in the world. Although they may be moving away from mainstream religious groups, they want always take ownership of a spiritual aspect of their lives,” Turanski said.

She is also a painter and jeweler and has her own jewelry sales website: soniaturanski.com.

Sonia Turanski, the new executive director of The Carpenter's Boat Shop, inspects a project in the restoration workshop.  Boat shop apprentices learn to build new boats as well as restore older boats.  (Photo by Evan Houk)

Sonia Turanski, the new executive director of The Carpenter’s Boat Shop, inspects a project in the restoration workshop. Boat shop apprentices learn to build new boats as well as restore older boats. (Photo by Evan Houk)

Turanski has been exposed to making small traditional wooden boats like dories and skiffs for the past 30 years through the work of her ex-husband.

“I know my way around a store pretty well,” she said.

“The craft aspect, the spiritual aspect, the leadership aspect, all of those reasons are reasons why it was fine for me to come,” Turanski said of his new position.

Turanski said his first interview lasted a day and a half and involved speaking with a search committee, the apprentices and community members who happened to attend the daily community tea break from 10 a.m. to 10:20 a.m.

“I really felt like I was being interviewed by 100 people. … It was really meaningful to see how important the boat shop was to so many people,” Turanski said.

Since then, she feels the warmth of the community. In her first month, she has already attended several dinner parties with local residents.

In his spare time, Turanski enjoys kayaking, walking his two dogs, playing pool and painting. She used to sing in a jazz and blues band and is currently learning the ukulele.

Turanski knows she has a big job ahead of her, but takes on the challenge. She is committed to learning as much as possible about the history of The Carpenter’s Boat Shop in order to shape a new identity for the future.

“Every step of the process involves reinventing how to reconcile the past and traditions of the boat shop with the future,” Turanski said.

For more information, visit The Carpenter’s Boat Shop at 440 Old County Road in Pemaquid, call 677-2614 or email [email protected]

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