Preview: Walkabout in Port Townsend, Washington

Historic Port Townsend Shipyard

I had the good fortune this spring to travel to another incredible mecca for wooden boats, Port Townsend, Washington. I was more than awe-struck by my afternoon walk around the historic Port Townsend Shipyard. The scene is unlike anything I had ever come across. Pound for pound there are more amazing vessels out of the wate here than anywhere I have ever been. The shipyard houses some of the most impressive wooden fishing boats as well as private yachts that are being worked on in the country today. Unlike the other yachting meccas like Newport, R.I., the scene here is very much a working DIY environment that revitalizes one’s soul. I was struck by the feeling that traditional wooden boats are alive and well, and that things like a vintage bicycle, a collection of blue tarps, and a dream, are all it takes to live like this here. Following is a photo journey of my walkabout.

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9 Responses So Far to “Walkabout in Port Townsend, Washington

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    Lawrence Allen says:

    I purchased Pequod, a gaff rigged ketch Sea Spirit back in 1990 in Los Angeles for a couple thousand bucks from a bank that foreclosed her. Trucked her to Port Townsend where she had considerable work done, and very finely at that, by David Thompson and Richard Wilmore. After 4 years moved her to Vashon Island and built a building in which to let her rest for a while. Well now that I am in my mid 70’s its time to finish her. Just moved my tools in and going to work completing the restoration. New member in Off Center Harbor – I’ll keep you all informed of the progress.

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      Peter Paradis says:

      good luck.. nothing like building something with your own hands.. finished a boat project last year and she hit the Chesapeake last summer.. was a boat building project from plans to finish..a wonderful gaff rigged cutter…i love tweaking with it all thew time

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    The name of the schooner with the wheelhouse is SUVA named for the island. built in 1925 and designed by Ted Geary, she sports teak planking in addition to her teak house. in later years her original gaff rig was replaced with a design by Ben Seaborn of the thunderbird class fame. I am not sure what its like sailing in maine but here more often than not its just plain chilly! that wheel house is a great place to watch the sunrise while still feeling the warmth from the diesel stove.

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    Hans Scholl says:

    Eric, thank you so much for sharing – the next best thing to being there. Can’t wait for what you’ll post from the upcoming boat show.

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    Larry Cheek says:

    Thanks to Eric for a delightful tour. I live on Whidbey Island, a 30-minute ferry ride from downtown Port Townsend, and I often go for no greater reason than to wander the shipyard and adjacent Boat Haven marina. Boat Haven harbors the Pacific Northwest’s best gathering of wooden watercraft, pleasure and commercial, and there are no gates to restrict wanderers’ access to the docks.

    Other attractions of natural interest to Off Center Harbor readers are Edensaw Woods, Ltd., which has a jaw-dropping stock of hardwoods for boatbuilding (and other distractions); and the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Hadlock, about 10 miles away from Port Townsend. I had my boatbuilding baptism, so to speak, at the school 10 years ago in a cedar-strip kayak building class. Edensaw provided the marine ply, white oak, and sapele for my 19’ gaff-rigger Nil Desperandum (a Sam Devlin Winter Wren II design, launched a year ago). Finally, the Wooden Boat Foundation is a 15-minute walk from the ferry landing, and while the annual Wooden Boat Festival is its signature event, its chandlery and boatshop are open every day for visitors.

    I second Eric’s enthusiastic endorsement of the festival, which was a life-changing pivot for me when I stumbled into it on assignment for a magazine years ago. Nil Desperandum will be there this year, and I’m giving a talk on “Values, Character, and the Wooden Boat” at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 8.


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    Ginny Jones says:

    MARTHA has just about completed a multi year (while sailing in the summer) restoraton/rebuild project. Check out her own website and see what the crew has done over the years. She takes disadvantaged young teens sailing………….

    There is an amazing schooner named ADVENTURESS there (BIG!) which was out of the water back in February. ALCYONE (Frank Prothero schooner owned by Lesley McNish and Sugar John Flanagan is homeported in PT. She’s got a few offshore miles under her keel! It is quite a place, and the scenery of that whole area is amazing.

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      Eric Blake says:

      Thanks for your comments. I am counting down the days my friends. Hope to see you all there!