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Retired Pastor Builds Sailboat from Church Pews


“No new trees will be cut for my boat” is the slogan Rev. Anthony Schweitzer, a retired Christian Reformed pastor, has chosen for the 17-foot (5.2 meter) sailboat he is currently constructing. Schweitzer, a member of Covenant CRC in Winnipeg, Man., is using a variety of wood sources, including old church pews, to build a sailboat modeled after the Haven 12½, a sailboat designed by Nathanael Herreshoff in 1914. 

“There are some disadvantages to using old wood but many more advantages,” said Schweitzer. “The pews ranged from 60 to 80 years old. Old wood is hard to bend, but a soaking and the straight grain restores much of the flexibility.” 

Twenty elm pews were donated to Schweitzer. “I have built the keel and the stem from elm laminated from many thin layers,” explained Schweitzer, “The frames are elm, as are the floor timbers.”

Schweitzer has also used sapele wood purchased at an auction, as well as cedar that came from the siding of his house.

This is the first sailboat Schweitzer has built, a project he started in the spring of 2014. It continues to be a learning experience for him. He has read many books and watched hundreds of videos about building boats. “Next summer I expect to complete the hull, sand and paint it inside and out, [and] attach the lead keel. And then the following summer I hope to attach the deck, complete the sail rig, and sail off into the sunset,” he said.

Schweitzer discovered his love of sailing in 1978 when he took a leave of absence from the ministry. For 14 months, he worked on a ship for troubled youth as a crew member and sailed whenever he could. “That’s where I got ‘saltchuck’ [saltwater] in my veins, and they tell me that once you have it, you’re doomed, since you can never get rid of it.”

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