PORT HADLOCK — Jack Sincevich of Port Hadlock is learning an ancient art that produces a functional boat.
Sincevich is working with master artist Friel Jay Smith of Anacortes to build a wooden Nordic Lapstrake using a design from the Iron Age that once served the Vikings.
He is one of 15 people in Washington state, and the only one on the North Olympic Peninsula, to earn an apprenticeship this year from the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions, a program of Humanities Washington, which is presented in partnership with the Washington State Arts Commission.
“I hope to gain a better understanding of the boatbuilding practices of the Nordic peoples through the eyes of a master builder who spends his life immersed in its art,” Sincevich said.
In the past three years, 46 people have been chosen to apprentice to people considered masters of their craft. The master artists are each paid a $4,000 honorarium, and each apprentice receives $1,000 during the year, which extends from July through the following June.
“I am following a path of curiosity and exploration,” Sincevich said. “I feel excited not only by the history of the craft but also its harmonious relationship to the natural world.
“I believe a path of mindfulness and hard work are my way into the future,” he added.
The boats were part of a “seafaring culture that was both feared and respected across Western Europe,” according to the Washington State Heritage Apprenticeship Arts Program.
“The elegance, beauty and seaworthiness of these ships has afforded them universal recognition as a true art form.”
Sincevich and Smith met during a field trip in February and decided they would apply for the program.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a shutdown.
“COVID-19 has definitely impacted our work together,” Sincevich said. “Following the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, we laid low and self-isolated for most of the spring and summer.
“Now that things have opened up a little, we have been able to continue working together, taking care to utilize social distancing and proper PPE (personal protective equipment).”
Sincevich has a background in carpentry, specifically in historic home and cabin repair, and he is a student at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.
“My interests have required me to become an adept joiner and respectable blacksmith in order to compete in today’s economic climate,” Sincevich said.
Sincevich is balancing his time between working on a 17-foot Rangeley guide boat in Port Townsend and his apprenticeship with Smith in Anacortes.
Sincevich said he and his teacher work together well.
“I would love to say it was my natural ability for all things carpentry-related that allowed me to shine brighter than other potential candidates,” Sincevich said. “However, I think the truth is much less flattering to my ego.
“I think Jay and I are cut from a similar cloth. We recognized that in each other early on, allowing us to explore this apprenticeship as a possibility.”
The Washington State Apprenticeship Arts program was created to encourage people to take up traditional trades, crafts or skills and preserve cultural traditions. Master artists are paired with apprentices and teach them skills related to a tradition in their community in the hopes that those traditions will thrive into the next generation.
The apprenticeship program culminates in a free event during which the public can view the outcomes.
“The apprenticeship is a wonderful opportunity for me to hone my skills as a boatbuilder,” said Sincevich, who hopes to have his own shop one day.
“The one-on-one time with Jay will be an invaluable experience for me as I step into a maritime career,” he added.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].