Owner of Salt Boatworks
Head Boatbuilding Instructor Carteret Community College
Morehead City, NC
Located right on the edge of Bogue Sound in Morehead City you’ll find Carteret Community College, or CCC for short, one of 58 accredited community colleges in UNC’s system. While there are many highly sought-after programs the school offers students, one of the most unique to our county would arguably be the schools boatbuilding program. Boatbuilding is a trade our county was built upon, and its history spans back hundreds of years, making it a significant part of the area’s heritage.
To keep the history of the trade alive, the area and its industries put full support into the school’s program and its teachers, acknowledging that they play a crucial role in the future of boatbuilding. We were excited to meet up with Adam Parchman, the college’s lead boatbuilding instructor, and learn more about his background and the role he plays in continuing the tradition. Adam has recently completed his first semester instructing at CCC and was excited about sharing his first few months of teaching experience with us.
Adam grew up on the outskirts of Goldsboro North Carolina, but never missed a chance to escape to Carteret County on the weekends to get out on the water with family and friends. He recalls being infatuated with boats and their structure from a young age and admired the distinctive flared bow design of the traditional Harkers Island watercraft. He dreamed of one day building a boat of his own, but in the meantime gained ample knowledge of carpentry from his grandfather, a carpenter himself. Adam and his grandfather worked on many different projects together, and he gives full credit to his late grandfather for instilling his love for all things building and design. He remembers a particular evening on the river when he was in high school where he found an old cypress canoe washed up by a past hurricane. The tired vessel would become Adam's first fixer-upper, which he’d continue to use for the next two years until selling it to take on a new project. When asked how many boats he turned over and sold in high school he laughed and said, “probably dozens”. He was in so many different boats in fact, that he jokingly said marine patrol probably thought he was running some type of scam.
When college rolled around, Adam decided to pursue a major in industrial design at NC State where he was only 1 of 16 applicants to be chosen for the program. Knowing just how competitive that program was, Adam asked the panel what exactly allowed him to make the cut knowing how qualified the other applicants were. It was to this they replied, “you were just so passionate we couldn’t tell you no”. Although Adam undeniably had the brains, there was no question that his fervor made him stand out amongst others in process.
Meanwhile, picking an internship during school seemed like a no brainer. Adam was sure he wanted to partner with a local boat business and with their help, design and build a boat from scratch like he had always dreamed of. He took time to go to local shops and made connections with industry leaders that would prove to come in handy throughout the process.
Unfortunately, just when things were lined up to do so, the economy crashed, leading the boatbuilding industry to a halt and Adam in a different direction. After graduating college Adam took a job in another design and engineering field, but never gave up hope on the project he had hoped for. After a year of waiting, Adam was ready to take matters into his own hands. After drawing up a design and having one of his mentors look it over, he was ready to begin the project he had always dreamed of. The plan would take place in the backyard of a house he and his wife rented at the time. He remembers asking the landlord if he could build a boat in the backyard, to which the landlord replied, “do whatever you want to do kid” and that was all the affirmation Adam needed. With the shelter of only tarps Adam began working away, facing inclement weather along with various other challenges in the process. The next rental would luckily include a garage, which would come in handy for when the boat was to be rolled over and finished. At the end of the endeavor the piece Adam had created was truly something to be proud of. The final product was so good in fact, that Adam had past mentors ask him to do design work for them also.
As his experience grew, Adam saw the opportunity to sell plans to the public. He understood that there was a large market for people that wanted to build their own boats, yet they lacked the skill set to do so. That’s when he made the decision to start his own company, Salt Boatworks. His goal was to create designs that were simple enough for those with no experience, yet more than just some plywood glued together. He started selling plans designed specifically for those with no experience to build small boats of their own. And as to be expected, customers came to him with various questions throughout their projects. But believe it or not, that was one of Adams favorite parts of the process. “Some didn’t even know what end of a hammer to use, but you can’t know what you haven’t been taught” Adam said. “What I learned from the experience was that I liked helping and teaching people”. He would continue his new business venture, designing boats and recording how-to videos for YouTube along with his existing engineering job until the next job opportunity would present itself in one of the places he loved most, Carteret County.
When the job as head boatbuilding instructor presented itself at Carteret Community College, Adam was quick to apply. “I can teach boatbuilding and design boats; how could you say no to that?”. Adams' newfound appreciation for helping people learn pushed him in the direction of teaching, and not long after applying Adam was offered the position. 5
One of the most admirable things Adam saw about the program from the beginning was its support from the overall area and its industries. “They truly see the worth in the program and think it’s valuable” he said. Although the budget isn’t the size of a private schools, the donations made are vital, and are utilized in every way possible.
When the semester came, Adam understood he must be creative in not only making the supplies and tools he had work, but also developing a teaching style and curriculum for the year. As opposed to classes like science or English, boatbuilding doesn’t have a set course of study, more so just an overall outline. This gave Adam a great deal of freedom in the way that he could present the information how he wanted. Although it was challenging at times determining how to structure the course and its progression, he was grateful for the support and trust the college gave him. The classes’ goal by the end of the semester is to have built together a completed wooden boat, using both the fall and spring semester to do so. With many students coming in with different skill sets and backgrounds this proves to be challenging, but Adam puts full faith in his class and their abilities. Students begin the course by working on smaller projects such as wooden paddles to get their feet wet, then work their way up as their abilities expand. “I see that that they are all capable, I just need them to see it in themselves” he said. Adam remembers the people in his life that had faith in him and admits humbly that without those people he wouldn’t be where he is today. He wants his students to have that same experience.
As for his teaching style, he relies heavily on the method of learning by doing. Adam allows students to make mistakes if the work can be salvaged and takes the time to explain how to fix it, so they won’t make the same mistake again in the future. By working alongside the students in a hands-on fashion, Adam feels they retain more, which ultimately leads to a higher success rate. “You have to take advantage of life’s teachable moments” he said, “If you don’t, you’re doing them a disservice”. It isn’t unusual for Adam to pause class and take a few minutes to answer a student’s questions thoroughly, but when he knows they’re understanding it’s extremely rewarding. And although Adam feels as if he’s mastered the technical knowledge of woodworking, he admits to learning more about teaching it every day. “It’s the hardest fun I’ve ever had” he said. He’s grateful for the many people that took time to invest in him and hopes to do the same for each student that walks through the doors of his classroom. Adam looks forward to continuing instructing into the spring semester and has high hopes that the program will continue to improve in the upcoming year. To learn more about Carteret Community Colleges boatbuilding program or to donate, you can visit their website at Carteret.edu.