skip to main content

Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Ambitious Achievers (Sean Kelly, Shipwright)

7 minutes

NARRATOR: Tucked away in Northern Connecticut is a 19th-century maritime village. Here, a gallery of tall wooden ships are erected by brilliant craftsmen, who create by hand, famous replicas of the historic past. Mystic Seaport is many things, research, art, history, and the birthplace for aspiring artists, who work nature's resources with their hands. Sean Kelly was born deaf in northern Connecticut. He was mainstreamed during his early school years, and at the age of 13, he transferred to the American School for the Deaf and learned sign language. There, he acquired the skill of building things with wood by hand. After graduation, he matched his love for boating and fishing with his skills in woodworking and was hired as a shipwright.

TRANSLATOR: For me, I love my job as a ship builder, because I love to work with my hands.

I love the smell of the wood, as I'm working on it.

It's something that keeps me very refreshed and motivated.

I don't know how to describe it. I kind of feel like it's almost a spiritual experience. You know, I enjoy my work very much.

I like real hands-on type of work. I like to smell the sawdust. It's something that I really enjoy, and I also learned the process of building, not boats at first. But I wanted to learn how to build a cabin. But I had to learn the basics first, learn how to make things out of wood for myself. Then when I got close to graduating, my teacher asked me what I wanted to do in the future, and I said I don't know, maybe work in a shop or something. We looked at different options, and even though I didn't have any experience with shipbuilding, they knew that I did enjoy boating. So I tried that. I found a place that would train me over a three-month period, and after that three months, they ended up hiring me. I've been there ever since. My job is a ship restorer is important because boats have to be maintained. You know, the wood can rot. There are worms that can get into it, or the saltwater could affect that. So you can't leave the wood there forever. It has to be replaced. You want to keep things running and make sure that the boat stays afloat.

You want to take care of lots of different things on a ship. It's an ongoing process, the care of it, to make sure that it looks good and that it's running well. You can't just leave it, or it'll die.

The first ship that I worked on was the "Amistad."

It was all new construction, but because that ship was a historical ship, we wanted to make a reproduction of it.

So we started working on the hull with planks, and you had to make all these planks exactly the same size and very smooth. We used a machine called a planer.

Then we moved down to the beams. We use the knee brace to separate those out.

And then we also would bolt everything together.

We built the cabin, the inner cabin, with benches and so forth.

You know, I worked on this project for two years, and then when I saw it on film, I was like wow, that's something that I did.

You know, I worked on that, and I would show it to my friends and show them the different things that I had done and explain how I did them, and you know, they were just amazed. It was something I felt really, really proud of.

Well while I'm working, you know, the smell of the wood, the texture of the wood, feeling the machines and the vibrations from the machines that are running, you get a real sense of excitement. You know, I enjoy my work very much, and I think about the future and what types of things I can do to improve my skills.

TRANSLATOR: I've worked with him, and he's driven me to get projects done more quickly. And I think that's needed. It's really good. He's a very fast worker. I respect that tremendously.

TRANSLATOR: While I was growing up, I grew up deaf, and I kind of felt--

You know, I was a brave spirit. I would be able to accomplish my goals and show people that I could do whatever I set out to do. You know, I could work with my hands. I'm a very visual person, and I know that I can't hear, but I can take advantage of my other senses, you know, whether it's touch or the sense of smell.

In my heart, I guess I've always wanted to work with my hands. You know, I guess I was just born that way.

I'm motivated by it. I enjoy it. It's just part of me. I love working with my hands.

Transcript Options


Now Playing As: Captioned (English)

Report a Problem

In this segment, Sean Kelly discusses the skills needed to build ships. As a shipwright, Sean gets to combine his love for woodworking and boating. He shares his story and educational path that led him to the career of building ships. Part of the "Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Ambitious Achievers (Vol. 5)" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 7 minutes

Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Episode 1
36 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Episode 2
7 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Episode 3
9 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Episode 4
10 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Episode 5
7 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Episode 6
27 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Episode 7
32 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Episode 8
8 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Episode 9
7 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Achieving Goals! Career Stories of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Episode 10
9 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12