The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle — Our Favorite Place in this Great City

The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle has long set a standard for bringing people to the waterfront and getting them started as sailors and boat builders. Launched among the houseboat community on Lake Union 40 years ago, the Center still has the power to remind Seattleites of their city’s maritime heritage.

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22 Responses So Far to “The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle — Our Favorite Place in this Great City

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    Nigel Jaques says:

    WOW what an interesting story and very well presented , Inspirational thank you

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    Gregory Dudley says:

    The Buffalo Maritime Center, (Buffalo NY) is a similar facility in the eastern US. We operate a wooden boat shop, library, small boat livery, and several education programs. It’s open to the public and free to visit.

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    Richard Whiting says:

    The next time you are in the San Francisco Bay area, you might want to check out the Spaulding Marine Boat Yard and Wooden Boat Center in Sausalito, CA.
    The yard was started by Myron Spaulding, naval architect and local boat builder in the 40’s and still continues to build and restore wooden boats. It’s a treasure.

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    mark bratton says:

    so glad you produced this video, it is such a priceless record of Dicks thoughts and ideas that led to the creation of the Center for Wooden Boats. A project of his love and passion for wooden boats that has touched so many people. A seattle institution that I hope will continue for many more generations. Though I did not know him personally what a loss, felt I am sure by so many.

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    Andy Reynolds says:

    This is a terrific tribute to a terrific organization, that deserves the recognition and accolades that are pouring in response to this video. I try to make a stop at CWB a part of every trip through Seattle!

    I particularly love seeing the historic photos included in this video, and at about 2:45 minutes in the video, there is a shot from above, of a herd of small boats on and around the float that was allegedly the Wagner’s “backyard” at the time…a dream backyard for any boat lover! And in the left center of that photo is a boat with a gaff rig, and dark sails. That boat is a DEAD RINGER of a boat which my wife and I recently found and purchased this year, a very long way from her home.

    Our boat, named Chimera, was built, and launched in 1980, in Port Townsend, by a builder named Samuel Connor, and I think the photo in the video is a lot older than that, so she cannot be the same boat…but she appears to be the same design, in every detail observable from the photo. We are very interested in learning more about our “new” boat, so if Dick Wagner, or anyone else reading this has any information that you can share with us about the photo, and that boat, we will be most grateful.

    We are currently cleaning her up and doing some overdue maintenance in anticipation of a re-launching later this summer here in the interior of Alaska.

    Thanks to OCH, and CWB!

    • David Tew

      David Tew says:

      And the CWB offered lifetime memberships for $100 then, too. What a deal, if you had the faith!

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        Dick Wagner says:

        Sorry you didn’t get in on the ground floor back then. Nowadays we only offer lifetime memberships to volunteers as a reward for exemplary, long-standing service. Nonetheless, we appreciate your regard for CWB – where we happily will celebrate our 40th Annual Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival July 2-4.
        Fair winds,
        Dick Wagner, Founding Director

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    David Wagenblast says:

    Wow, is there any place like the Center FWB’s in the northeast? I’ been a lover of wooden sailboats for years and would love to be able to sail a small classic without having to sell my house to own one. Wonderful video.

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      Greg Stan says:

      Mystic Seaport has a nice rental livery of classic little wooden boats. They’ll be open in the spring.
      They also teach sailing on Dyer Dhows, classic wood-trimmed hand laid fiberglass dinghies.
      They’ve also got volunteer opportunities.

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      Barbara Hall says:

      Lowell’s Boat Shop in Amesbury, MA teaches wooden boat building!

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    Brian Hollars says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this story!


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    JIM REUSCHER says:

    Wonderful video ( as always) Great job again. Thank you.
    Whenever I get to Seattle I have to go to the CWB to regain the peace and serenity that we all seek. This place rocks.

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    Michael Jones says:

    While we were in the development stage of building a boat shop as part of Heritage Village in Pinellas County Florida, we were pleasantly surprised to receive a letter of support from Dick Wagner. It was a very touching and generous gesture for him to take the time to reach out to a small organization thousands of miles away to offer encouragement. We have completed the construction phase and now have the McKay Creek Boat Shop open, showcasing Clark Mills and the development of the Optimist Pram. Our thanks to Dick and the Center for Wooden Boats for their inspiration.
    And to the crew at Off Center Harbor.

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    Dick Wagner says:

    Ahoy Steve and Eric,

    We are so moved and delighted by OCH’s video about The Center for Wooden Boats. You tell the story of how we got here and where we are going in a way that we know will inspire and attract more and more people to CWB. You have shown how so many people came unknowing to CWB and how we changed their lives. They leave here proud of their achievements, having had more fun than they ever could imagine while learning new skills that will last them a lifetime. We are grateful for your enthusiasm and diligence in putting together our story.

    Off Center Harbor and The Center for Wooden Boats are a great team. We look forward to your next visit to the Pacific Northwest. We’ll always be able to find a berth for you.

    Fair winds,

    Dick and Colleen Wagner, Founders
    The Center for Wooden Boats

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    George Johnson says:

    I have a Navy Friend that lives just outside of Seattle and I was wondering HOW can I send him this video.
    Geo. Johnson

    • Steve Stone

      Steve Stone says:

      Hi George. You can forward home the email you received from OCH. Or you can always copy the page’s URL and paste it in and email to your friend.

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    Lou Kimball says:

    Seems like every video I watch, I say to myself “Best yet!”, but you know what? They just keep coming.
    Great job guys!

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    Larry Cheek says:

    A huge thanks to Eric and Steve for meeting an arduous schedule—arrival in Seattle at 2 a.m., on the CWB docks at 7!—and producing such a detailed and warm-hearted video on this Seattle treasure. And more thanks to Dick and Colleen Wagner for creating it.

    My wife Patty and I took our beginning sailing lessons in the CWB’s Blanchards ten years ago. I had already started building my first sailboat, a 13.5′ Devlin melonseed, and it had belatedly occurred to us that it might be good to know a little about sailing by the time we were ready to launch. Those early lessons led to U.S. Sailing certification courses, the building of two more sailboats, and many articles I’ve written for Woodenboat magazine—and an all-absorbing passion for wooden boats that will certainly last the rest of our lives. This is a great organization, and it continues to make a substantial difference in peoples’ lives.

    The CWB is about to start on new classroom building and boat shop adjacent to its current (picturesque but cramped) Lake Union quarters, and is in the midst of an ambitious capital campaign to fund it. If you’re impressed by its work, consider making a contribution. You can read about the new facility, designed by one of Seattle’s best architectural firms, on the CWB website: . And you’ll find a “Donate” button therein.

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    Chris Cournoyer says:

    Excellent job Eric and Steve. I echo Judie Romeo’s praises above. T’was a pleasure to meet you both again in Pt. Townsend a day or so later than you filmed this. Based upon your two a.m. arrival and filming at 7:00, I see why your earlier series was titled Sleepless in Seattle.
    Of course time and tide wait for no man…. and we can sleep when we are dead! Thanks for rising early and capturing these images. It was wonderful to see.

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    Martin Gregory says:

    Went out to Seattle to paint a house for a friend and while walking around just seeing the city ran into Dick early on a Sunday morning while looking down into the boat basin at CWB. 10 minutes later was sailing one of the beetles with him. Was a volunteer/employee there for 8 years.

    Dick is one of Seattle’s natural resources, a great person.

    Marty Gregory
    Two Rivers, WI

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    Judie Romeo says: in Brooklin, Maine – our favorite place on the web!
    Thank you Steve and Eric for showcasing to the world what we do here on Lake Union. Your video is a wonderful tribute to what Dick and Colleen Wagner created and what thousands of volunteers and staff have grown into a place where traditional wooden boats are the foundation for a diverse variety of hands-on learning and heritage preservation. You have captured the spirit and the essence of CWB. We all are deeply grateful to have our efforts recognized in such a beautiful way.
    Judie Romeo
    CWB Volunteer since 1986

DONATIONS:  We love this place so much, and they do such valuable work, we are not bashful about listing a link for charitable donations to CWB, first thing. This week the CWB broke ground on the new Dick and Colleen Wagner Education Center.  Here's a drawing of this wonderful new building. You can CLICK HERE to make a tax-deductible donation to The Center for Wooden Boats.


Visit the CWB's website

Center for wooden boats 40th anniversary logo

1010 Valley Street
Seattle, WA 98109
p. (206) 382-2628
f. (206) 382-2699


The Fleet

The Boatshop

Preservation & Documentation Work

Building 3D Models with Digital Photographs - Study on maritime preservation with 3D models by CWB


Dick Wagner's OCH Guide Posts


Blanchard Jr. Knockabout



R Boat pirate deck plans


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