Johnson, a student of the Northeastern University and an apprentice boat builder, had to decide if he could leave the drill of his boat named ‘persistence’ bit buried in its sole, or if the metal would eventually rust and rot out the wood around it. As it turned out, throughout the process of designing and building boats, Johnson got to realize he wanted to be a mechanical engineer and, ultimately, that he wants to work for a marine engineering company.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, teams of boat builders would work in an assembly line to whip up six or seven boats a day and sell them to fishermen up and down the Massachusetts coast. An iron support beam inside the building became a makeshift measuring stick, where boat builders would notch how many vessels they’d made each year. Even though production has slowed down dramatically since the shop’s heyday, but the tradition remains the same. Johnson now builds boats with tools that would be familiar to his 20th-century counterparts.
“You get into a flow state, almost,” Johnson quoted about the days spent building boats. “I’ve heard of runners getting a ‘runner’s high’ during a really good run, and sometimes I’ll get like a boat builder’s high when everything is lining up just right and fitting together perfectly. It’s amazing” he says. Johnson said he has honed his approach to solving problems in his mechanical engineering courses at the Northeastern University. He said that he spent more time thinking about the problem and outlining a solution rather than jumping in head-first with what he believed was the best solution.
Johnson said that he’s learned something bigger than how to keep a boat afloat. He learned about all those mistakes we make and fix along the way.