Life Skills Through Boatbuilding

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                          Joseph Filipowski, Boatbuilding Program Director

                              Joe pursued an education in American and European history at Old Dominion College before embarking on a

                                    career in the heavy construction industry in 1969. During the mid-1970s he worked in the U.S. Merchant Marine

                                    service. Sailing on small and medium sized tugboats provided 'hands-on' educational opportunities for applying

                                    fundamental engineering principles while controlling tugs and barges of vast tonnage under challenging sea and

                                    weather conditions. A fascination for research and academic pursuits, combined with a respect for traditional

                                    building skills enabled him to teach woodworking and boatbuilding at the Norfolk School of Boatbuilding. In 1980 he

                                    went to work with the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Dry-dock Corporation as a first class rigger, eventually working his way into production engineering management.  In 1985, Joe started Decking Design, Inc., a shipboard marine flooring and decking firm. Through 1993 he worked with 35 full-time tradesmen serving naval and commercial shipping on the East Coast of the U.S. and in Europe. For the past 20 years he has continued to work as an independent boatbuilder, artisan, craftsman and instructor.  During this period he also worked with the historical department at the Mariners Museum in Newport News, VA as an interpreter and historical character actor. This work led to his being hired as a character actor in several documentaries and film projects, most recently in Stephen Spielberg's movie "Lincoln." He has served on the boar of directors for Nautical Adventures, Inc., a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged youth in  Hampton Roads. He currently works as a part time history instructor for Old Dominion University's Institute for Learning in Retirement program.  Joe brings over 30 years of boatbuilding experience Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop. 

                        Tom Brandl, Executive Director and Boatbuilding Instructor

                             Graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1979, Tom served 29 years as a U.S. Marine Corps Officer.

                                    During his career he held  numerous command and leadership billets, senior staff positions, and earned a

                                    Master of Arts in National Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College.  After retiring from the military in 

                                    2008, he  worked  as a  defense analyst and Director of Operations for a defense consulting firm.  In September

                                    2014, he left that job to fully concentrate his time and energy toward directing Tidewater Wooden Boat

                                    Workshop.  Tom has over ten years' experience teaching and mentoring youth through extensive

                                    involvement coaching youth  athletics.  Previous nonprofit experience includes serving five years on the board of directors of his community civic league, three of those as president.  He has spent the past four summers completing wooden boatbuilding course work at the Wooden Boat School in Brooklin, Maine and is currently completing a 14-foot wooden rowing and sailing skiff, a project in which he has involved neighborhood youth.  Tom is certified in the nationally recognized "Building to Teach" methodology, developed by the Alexandria Seaport Foundation to teach math through woodworking and boatbuilding, and he is a member of the Teaching With Small Boats Alliance (TWSBA).  Through his involvement in TWSBA,  Tom has personally experienced the tremendous, positive impact a boatbuilding program can have on the lives of underprivileged youth, and he founded Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop to bring those benefits to the Hampton Roads community    

Our Staff