The Peter M. Atwood, a schooner and a lesson to learn

Schooner sunset


The Peter M. Atwood under sail. (Courtesy photo)


ALTON — Midway through his career, when Keith King was a professor at Keene State College, he had a crisis that caused him to fall out of love with teaching. What saved him was the discovery of Outward Bound, and its philosophy of teaching by putting students in uncomfortable, but manageable, situations. And that is how he came to sail a 37-foot schooner on Lake Winnipesaukee for nearly a quarter century.

Then, about five years ago, Chris Owen, a former student of King's, approached him with the idea of filming a documentary about the boat's creation, and the purpose that it filled throughout its existence. The half-hour film, titled "Atwood," debuted in 2014 at the Somewhat North of Boston Film Festival.

On Thursday, Aug. 18, The New Hampshire Boat Museum and the Village Players are partnering to screen the film at the Players' theater on Glendon Street in Wolfeboro. King and Owen will be available for a question-and-answer period following the viewing. Admission costs $5 per person, for more information call the Museum at 603-569-4554.

The vessel that became the Peter M. Atwood was brought by King to Keene State as a discarded hull he acquired from the Maine Marine Museum in the early 1970s. King's idea was to use the boat as the challenge he would throw students into for an immersive, semester-long course he called Operation L.I.V.E. (Learning In a Vigorous Environment). For three semesters, involving about 50 students, he presented young adults with the challenge of constructing a wooden, twin-mast schooner.

"I tried to give them problems and let them figure it out for themselves," King said. Interest in the course eventually waned, and King assumed ownership of the boat. For seven years, and with the help of 52 more people – some helping for a couple of weekends, some for years – King worked on the schooner at his property along the eastern shore of Alton Bay. In 1986, the schooner was launched – 29 feet long on deck, 37 feet overall, 9 feet wide and with a draw of four-and-a-half feet. Designed as a two-thirds replica of schooners used for shuttling goods to and from southern Alaska, the boat had three sails rigged on two masts – one 37 feet tall, the other 42. The ship weighed 12,000 pounds, about half of which was lead ballast.

How did it sail?

"Beautiful. I miss it," said King.

The schooner was christened the Peter M. Atwood, named after a student who played several critical roles in the boat's construction, and who died at age 31 due to complications from an accident.

With a "good blow," he said, he would need two others to help sail, but on a calm day King could sail by himself. However, his inclination was not to be alone. Whenever possible, he returned to boat to his original intention for it: education.

"The most important thing for me was that it was the best classroom I ever had," said King. Campers at nearby summer camps, Boy Scouts and many others were able to experience what it was like to sail on a wooden ship.

For 23 years, he sailed on Winnipesaukee during the warm seasons, and hauled it out of the water for the winter, when he would perform needed maintenance.
"Each year, because it was the first boat I ever built, I made a lot of mistakes. Each year, I had to replace some of the planks." After two decades of such maintenance, King started looking for someone or some organization to give the boat to. Not just anyone, though; King wanted the Atwood to continue to be used as an educational device, to continue to challenge and delight people.

During what would become its final winter inspection, though, King realized that rot had reached some of the boat's structural components, and he made the decision to cut her apart, rather than risk a catastrophe on the lake.

Though not always at the same scale of the Atwood, King has been building boats for more than 70 years.

"When I was in high school, my dad bought a kit (for a wooden boat). I helped him build that ... That really was the beginning of it, I've been working with my hands ever since."

King will turn 90 this winter and he continues to build. He is currently working on a wooden Thompson skiff and a Norwegian sailing skiff. This winter, he will restore two other boats.

In each case, he looks for something new – a new design, a new way to do something, or a new person to challenge. For King, having a completed boat is nice but the most valuable part is found in the building.

"One of the philosophies of teaching is to create change in the learner," he said. And, like the Atwood, few remain unchanged after their interactions with King.

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Keith King, 89, has been building boats since he was a high schooler. In the background is a Thompson skiff he’s working on with a friend. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho

One way to cool off

8-11 Harts Slush

Michaela Sorrell, employee at Hart's Slush in Weirs Beach, served Elizabeth Callaghan and Audra and George Hebert on Thursday afternoon, when the temperature rose into the mid-90s. Sorrell said business is brisk when it's warm, but when it's as hot as it was on Thursday, few people venture out onto Lakeside Avenue. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Sales tax smears - Mysterious meeting is at heart of countercharges flying in County Commission Contest


LACONIA — A mysterious meeting alleged to have been held recently at a Gilford restaurant is at the heart of charges of a smear campaign being waged in contested primary races for Republican nominations for the Belknap County Commission.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) claimed in a letter printed in Tuesday's Laconia Daily Sun that state representatives George Hurt (R-Gilford) and Ray Howard (R-Alton) have been spreading rumors that Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton), whom DeVoy supports in the primary, supports a county sales tax.
DeVoy said that both Hurt and Howard are part of alliance which supports incumbent Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) and Jonathan Smolin (R-Alton). Smolin is running against Taylor in the primary.  Burchell is running for re-election in his own district, opposed by Glen Waring (R-Gilmanton)
DeVoy, who has announced his support for Burchell's primary rival, former Belknap County Finance Director Glen Waring (R-Gilmanton), said there is a Burchell/Smolin alliance which is trying to trick taxpayers into believing county commissioners have the authority to increase taxes, which they do not. No one below the level of the Legislature has the power to levy taxes not expressly approved by the Legislature.
In his letter, DeVoy charges that Burchell and Smolin were both present at a meeting at a Gilford restaurant along with Hurt and Howard and four other individuals at which advertising for the upcoming primary election was discussed.
In another letter, also printed in Tuesday's Laconia Daily Sun, Smolin said he does support Burchell but said that his campaign is not linked with Burchell's and said DeVoy's statements "bear no relationship to the truth" and that he is owed an apology.

Hurt said the meeting described by DeVoy never took place and expressed his support for Smolin in a letter published in Wednesday's Daily Sun in which he writes DeVoy "has apparently been afflicted with a vivid imagination arising out of his lust for power." Howard has also denied being at the meeting described by DeVoy.
The charge that Taylor supports a county sales tax was first made in a letter to the Daily Sun from Elizabeth Gamage of Alton which was published in the Aug. 2 edition. The following day a letter from Taylor was published in which he said that there is a "sneaky whispering campaign" being conducted and that he has never advocated a county sales tax, pointing out that such a move would be tantamount to committing political suicide.
DeVoy first made the charge of an alliance between the Burchell and Smolin campaigns and the meeting at a Gilford restaurant at the Aug. 3 meeting of the Belknap County Commissioners, at which he also mentioned the statements about Taylor and a county sales tax which he alleges were being made by Hurt and Howard.
In an Aug. 5 letter from Burchell which was published in The Laconia Daily Sun, Burchell denied that there is a link between his campaign and the Smolin campaign and said DeVoy is willing to smear him without evidence. He also said that the meetings of the commissioners were '"not an opportunity to pursue gossip or for idle speculation."
A letter from Burchell published in today's paper claims that he hasn't set foot in a Gilford restaurant in over a year and that he, not Taylor, is the victim of a smear campaign.
The relationship between the three current commissioners has been stormy ever since early 2015, when Burchell, who was elected as chairman of the commission in January of 2015, was ousted as chairman and replaced by DeVoy at a March 2, 2015, meeting during which Burchell attempted to prevent his ouster by continually rapping the gavel and declaring that the other commissioners were out of order.
At a June 4 meeting last year, commissioners Taylor and DeVoy censured Burchell for leaking information from a nonpublic meeting held while Burchell was still chairman to former Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Matthew Logue.
DeVoy and Taylor again censured Burchell in May of this year for what they said was official misconduct in connection with his attempts to access protected medical records in the state Department of Health and Human Services database.
Taylor said at that time that he had originally been inclined to overlook the failed attempt by Burchell to gain access to the database as a case of "no harm, no foul," but said that on deeper reflection he came to view the incident as a serious matter which needed to be dealt with.
He said that on Jan. 20 of this year Burchell had asked an administrative employee of the county to fax a copy of a form to the state Department of Health and Human Services which Burchell himself had signed authorizing access for him to the department's rate-setting database.
Burchell had signed the request as not only as a Belknap County Commissioner, but also a second time as an administrator with authority to authorize access, and had provided his own private email address as the facility's contact email address.
The request was later denied by the Christine Ferwerda of the DHHS, who said that it needed explicit approval from the administrator of the Belknap Nursing Home. The county's HIPAA compliance officer, Patti Ricks, pointed out that the nursing home is required by law to protect the health care information of residents of the Belknap County Nursing Home to keep it from being used improperly, and that only the administrator of the nursing home has authority to grant access to the database. Ricks wrote that it was her determination that Burchell should not have access.
Taylor pointed out that Burchell had made the request for the form to be faxed to the DHHS at a meeting of the commission, but had never discussed it with the other commissioners.
"A reasonable and honest person would have explained at the meeting what he proposed to do and would have asked for board authorization for such action. Mr. Burchell clearly chose a path of deception, rather than one of transparency." He said that it was "conscious usurpation of board authority."
He said that Burchell knew he didn't have the authority to authorize personal access to the department's database yet still represented himself to the department through the form he filled out as having that authority.
Taylor said that Burchell's action violated two criminal code sections, both misdemeanors, for attempting to deceive a public servant and for attempting to commit the crime of unauthorized access.
Burchell did not deny filling out the form seeking access, but said that he had only done so in order to obtain information on how reimbursement rates for county homes are determined.
He explained that he had doubts over the statements made by Acting Nursing Home Administrator Bob Hemenway that the county was losing an estimated $185,420 a year in Medicaid income due to lack of adequate documentation of services provided for residents.
"I thought it was an incorrect assumption," said Burchell, who said that he had no intention of violating the privacy of any of the residents, but instead wanted to determine what factors played a role in the decrease in reimbursements from $161.33 a day last year to $154.46 on July 1 of this year.