Woodworking couple builds little boats for the first baby born in Juneau each year

Dr. Lindy Jones and his wife Colleen in their woodshop. Jan. 5, 2023. (Photo by Yvonne Krumrey/KTOO)

Each year, Dr. Lindy Jones and his wife Colleen say they’ll stop making the baby boats. But each year they keep making them. It’s a tradition that took root back when Lindy delivered babies at Bartlett Hospital, where he said he formed deep connections with parents.

The couple — who’ve been woodworking together since college — makes one of the little, rocking boats for the first baby born in Juneau each year. They also make them for nurses and friends when they have children, about four or five boats a year. 

Lindy is an emergency room doctor now, but when he was working in the delivery room 20 years ago, he found he wanted a way to acknowledge the connections he formed with parents who were experiencing infertility and challenging pregnancies.

“There’s certain families that I had a connection to and kind of being with them through the process, and it was a way just to acknowledge that for myself and for them,” he said.

The couple builds adult-sized boats, too — like the 30-foot fishing boat they started last January. Standing in the Joneses’ woodshop and guest house — which they also built themselves — Colleen gestures towards the hull, recently coated in resin. 

The Weed family poses with the wooden boat made by Dr. Lindy Jones and his wife, Colleen. Ethan Weed was the first baby born at Bartlett Regional Hospital in 2023. (Photo courtesy of Bartlett Regional Hospital)

“This is usually the woodworking room, and it has been transformed into a boat,” she said.

Colleen says she spends about four hours a day in the woodshop, working on their bigger projects and on the gifts the couple gives out around the holidays.

“It’s one way that you can just share something at the start of the year, for somebody special,” she said. 

They used yellow cedar for this year’s baby boat, grown and cut in Hoonah. Lindy has been working with Wes Tyler, the owner of Icy Straits Lumber, for years.

“He actually, this year, donated all the yellow cedar for the boats,” he said.

The baby boats are labor intensive — at one point, the couple stopped building them for about a decade. But Lindy said it’s not wasted time for him. 

“Shop time doesn’t count against life, you know?” he said. 

Lindy said he feels deeply committed to Bartlett as a place of work, and that drives him to keep making and gifting these boats. 

“It’s given me an opportunity for the most challenging, fulfilling career I could ever imagine,” he said.

This year’s boat went to Ethan Weed, Juneau’s first baby of 2023, born Jan. 3.

Lindy said he never plans to sell anything he makes. And he plans to have their new boat ready for the Outer Coast by king salmon season.

Yvonne Krumrey

Local News Reporter, KTOO

Juneau is built on hidden and assumed layers of power and access, influencing how we interact with identity, with the law and with each other. I bring you stories of the gaps in access to power, and those who are working to close those gaps.

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