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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building … an interesting part of our history right in our own back yard

Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building … an interesting part of our history right in our own back yard

Center offers classes and museum tours

Louisiana and boating, it’s hard to think of one without the other. The words woven and intermingle into the very fabric of life in Lafourche.

Used for travel, work, and leisure these vessels have remained a staple in modern time and throughout history. Especially here, given the industry of oil and gas, tugboats, commercial fishing and shrimp trawling.

The Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building (CTLBB) could not agree more. Incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1979, the Center, located in Lockport, keeps boat building and its history alive.

CTLBB offers an interactive approach called Look and Learn. Adults and children alike can learn about boats, which are historically unique to the bayou such as bateauxs, pirogues, skiffs, and other watercraft.

The Traditional Maritime Organization provided some insight on the tradition of boat building when they said, "The skills unique to wooden boat building are known to a small and decreasing number of people. It is both an essential part of the regions' history and economy. If there is no action taken, it is only a matter of time before these skills become extinct."

CTLBB steps in to honor and preserve the art of boat building and the artisans who build them.

One of the Center's boat builders, Ernie Savoie, lives, breathes, and sleeps everything he can about Louisiana boat building and its tradition. Taught by his father, Ernie will be the first to tell you to put the power tools to the side and learn the beautiful art of boat building by hand. It offers a much more intimate and unique experience, one to share with a friend, a son, a daughter, or anyone else for that matter. You are learning a craft and building a boat you take home with you.

In addition to the class, the Center offers an excellent educational experience with the artifacts they have on public display.

Ernie has a story to go along with every boat there!

Extremely well versed with the Center's artifacts he can tell you the "who," "when,” “why,” and more on every piece in the building. You can hear his passion when he speaks about his trade and the Center.

Some say one of the boats housed there comes from an original Tarzan movie from the 1930’s!

The CTLBB also has two Indian dugout canoes on display, one found on Grand Isle during the Hurricane Betsy clean up in 1965 and believed to be nearly two centuries old. The second relic, found in Cut Off’s Little Lake in September of 2000 is 400 to 500 years old.

The artifacts are in pristine condition considering their age.

The men that found the dugout in Little Lake initially had no idea what they discovered. At first, they thought it was simply a tree log tangled in their nets. It was when they took a closer look they realized what they found.

Indians in the Louisiana region relied on these boats made out of a hollowed tree trunk. These beautiful creations were made by hand using the most primitive of tools. One tool the Indians used, called an adze, cut a large section of a tree such as a cypress. Using controlled fires and oyster shells; they removed the interior wood and carved out the belly.

Vessels like these are the oldest boats known by archaeologists with some dating back as far as the Stone Ages some 8000 years ago. It was an intricate process, which was a necessity for their sustainability and livelihood.

One thing is certain, if you are not a boat enthusiast, you will be once you walk through the doors of CTLBB!

The Center, located at 202 Main Street in Lockport, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Private groups are welcome as well. Do not forget to bring the kids for their Look and Learn sessions! Students are free, and adults are only $5.

Boat building classes are on Mondays from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. However, Ernie will work to accommodate other times as needed by interested parties.

You can contact CTLBB for additional information on the museum or boat building classes by calling 985-532-5106, or by visiting their website at Be sure and like their Facebook page to stay informed of upcoming events open to the public.