A pair of channel markers guide boaters between ledges in Will’s Gut, between Orr’s Island and Bailey Island. Students from Brunswick’s Region 10 Technical High School fabricated the markers after a storm destroyed the old ones. (PAM BERRY PHOTO)

Students at Brunswick’s Region 10 Technical High School fabricated new channel markers for Will’s Gut and a mooring hauler for Harpswell’s harbor master this year, in “live work” projects that allow students to gain real-world experience and serve their community.

The partnership came about because Harpswell Deputy Harbor Master Greg Coyne lives down the road from Gerry St. Denis, then-leader of the metal fabrication and welding program at Region 10. St. Denis retired at the end of the 2021-22 school year, ending a 35-year teaching career.

“Anytime you can do a live project for a student, it’s cool because it’s not just learning base stuff where you do this and that, it’s actual live work,” St. Denis said. “Every program at the school encourages live work projects like that.”
Coyne appreciated the students’ help. Like St. Denis, he emphasized the value of students learning about the real-life applications of their studies.

“It gave them some experience in welding a piece of marine material that they probably wouldn’t have gotten to do otherwise,” Coyne said. “So it worked out well for the town and provided a good service and helped the students learn a little bit about marine activity.” The students’ work saved the town about $3,000.

The channel markers delineate the sides of the navigable channel between Orr’s Island and Bailey Island, helping to ensure safe passage through a tricky area. From the road, they are visible on the east side of the Cribstone Bridge.

Coyne said the new markers are an improvement on their predecessors, a testament to the quality of the students’ work. The old markers were destroyed in a storm last year.

“This is night and day from what we had before, because they were just poles with little signs that were faded and that had probably been there for 10-12 years,” Coyne said. “They’re much bigger, much larger. Hopefully they will prevent the boating accidents that have happened in the area. So it’s very beneficial to not only the town but to the visitors that utilize that waterway.”

The mooring hauler, mounted to a custom float, allows the harbor master to remove abandoned moorings and fishing gear from the seafloor.

St. Denis hopes the new director of the metal fabrication and welding program will continue to pursue “live work” projects with local communities.