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Joyce Endee

For Chairman Joe DeChiaro, the N.H. Boat Museum is an exciting place to be

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News

JOE DECHIARO, Chairman of the New Hampshire Boat Museum's Board of Trustees, stands before a wooden boat that was completely restored over the past winter by museum volunteers. It is just one on many boats and boating items on display at the museum, which this year features a major exhibit on Lake Wentworth, its camps, boats and people. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
July 16, 2015
WOLFEBORO — Looking back over his first two years as chairman of the board of the New Hampshire Boat Museum, Joe DeChiaro says that what has been most exciting for him is that the museum has been expanding not only its programs but also its board of trustees and, soon, the museum itself.

New programs added include Sailboat Sharing, the Lake Winnipesaukee Poker Run, and the Lake Discovery Summer Camp.

The Sailboat Sharing program is a partnership between the museum, Brewster Academy and the Wolfeboro Parks and Recreation Department that allows local sailors and museum sailing school graduates to take out its 24-foot keel boat on their own in one of three daily time slots.

The Lake Winnipesaukee Poker Run is a boating version of the classic road fundraiser where participants take their boats to five stops, picking up a token that will later be redeemed for a poker hand. The run ends at 1 p.m. with a catered lunch at the Wolfetrap Grill & Raw Bar. This year's event is on Saturday, Aug. 22.

Lake Discovery Summer Camp is a camp that provides fun lessons in the science and ecology of water and aquatic life as well as local history, arts and crafts and children's literature. This second year the camp runs from Monday, July 20 through Friday, July 24, with children in grades K-2 in camp the first two days and children in grades 3-6 for days three through five.

These new programs are in addition to the museum's seven other established programs, including Boat Building, the Model Yacht Group, Community Sailing, and the annual Boathouse Tour, Alrton Bay Boat Show, New England Vintage Boat Auction and Lake Wentworth Sailing Regatta. The museum also operates the Millie B, a replica wooden boat that gives rides around Wolfeboro Bay from the Town Docks.

DeChiaro says the museum's board of trustees is a very active group. Each trustee is assigned to program, not only to report back on it to the board but to actively participate in and champion the program. As more programs have been added, the board has been expanded as well.

Despite the assignments to individual programs, the board works together extremely well as a team, DeChiaro says proudly. Though the museum is only open to the public during the summer, board members are active year round. Members involved with the boat building program, for example, fabricate the boat building kits during the off season.

A little history

The boat museum was founded in 1992 by antique and wooden boat enthusiasts in Meredith and moved to Wolfeboro where there were more volunteers available to help run the museum. DeChiaro got involved in 2007 when he built an Optimus dinghy with a grandchild.

He says he has always had a boat and loved sailing. He grew up and worked in New York City but came up to Wolfeboro in 1974 and fell in love with the area. He founded Green Mountain Furniture, which made as well as sold furniture originally. In 1980 he split with his partner and opened a store in Meredith which he sold in 1990 and got into consulting. Of his six children five live in Wolfeboro.

At the time that he built his first boat in 2007 the museum needed someone to direct its sailing program. With three or four grandchildren interested in boating, he stepped forward and became involved.

Two years ago he succeeded Rick Kourian as chairman, who has served for one year following longtime chairman Hank Why.

Present and future

DeChairo says the museum is reaching out farther into the state, becoming more active with the Meredith Boat Show and working with both New Hampshire Tourism and Lakes Region Tourism to increase its visibility to visitors. For the 150th Anniversary of N.H. Fish & Game the museum brought down a boat similar to that used in filming "On Golden Pond," which involved Fish & Game personnel.

The museum's future lies in building a new facility on a site it has acquired on the shore of Back Bay. As the museum's programs have increased and expanded, so has the competition for space in its current premises, the former theater building of the Allen A Resort. The board considered expanding the existing 12-acre site, but most of the land is wetlands.

Former Chair Rick Kourian is heading a capital campaign and the whole board is involved in planning for the new facility as well as the fundraising effort, which should begin within a year. The new museum will be on the water and have more space for exhibits and other activities. The current building will be retained and expanded to provide more shop space for boat building and restoration.

DeChiaro says he is excited about the museum and where it is going and loves working with his "fantastic board," Executive Director Lisa Simpson Lutts, Operations Manager Allison Gamble and newsletter editor and board member Jeannie Lewis.

The museum is located at 399 Center Street and is open through Columbus Day Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call the New Hampshire Boat Museum at 569-4554, visit its website at www.nhbm.org or find it on Facebook.

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