The Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival
by John Welsford

Well, it's been a busy month, including a business trip to Washington State where I was able to take the weekend off and go to the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, meet David LeBlanc and texans Sandra and Chuck Leinweber of Duckworks Magazine. It was great to catch up with these people, and I was also very pleased to meet Jamie Orr with his Phil Bolger design Chebacco boat, who was over from Vancouver Island, British Columbia. So many stories to swap and only a couple of hours together - ah well, next time! David is a contact made through the Boat Design Yahoo group and, now that we know each other, a friend.

Sandra enjoying the show

Chuck, of course, is the editor and owner of Duckworks Magazine, my plans agent and also I hope, a friend. A few hours together and an awful lot of emails is not really a good base for really getting to know each other, but when a passion for small boats is shared, as well as some business interests, the potential is certainly there. I enjoyed the Boat Show, and the chowder that the eating house served up at lunchtime. Seafood Chowder is not common where I come from, but hopefully it will become more readily available in the future (even if I have to make it myself!).


Boat shows we have a lot of: there are four each year within a couple hours drive of where I live, but they show almost entirely aluminium and plastic, which doesn't warm my heart at all. At Port Townsend though, there was some plywood and a fair bit of epoxy, but a remarkable number of copper rivets and even some trunnels! Solid wood in both clinker and carvel, a few strip planked boats, converted fishermen and some not converted still working for a living. Big hairy-chested diesels and two boats along from what was, judging by the size of the small ship and the 6inch diameter exhaust, a really big thumper; a 2-hp. Honda four-stroke (my favourite outboard motor, so quiet and with no smell).

Amphibious boat

It was for me a show of contrasts: a guy in a recumbent bicycle powered side paddle wheel amphibious boat weaving through the sidewalk crowd; a vast wall of black tarry planking with mooring lines as thick as my wrist coming out through rust streaked fairleads; two delicately graceful Nordic Folkboats, their lovely shapes accentuated by the sweep of the clinker planking and their low cabins; the stocky diesel cruisers that would be thoroughly at home anchored among the fishing fleet waiting out a spell of bad weather in some far away harbour.

Stephen Ladd

I enjoyed looking over Stephen Ladd's 12-foot long Squeak, I'd read about him in Duckworks Magazine articles. Three years of voyaging in such a tiny space seemed impossible until I saw the boat: she's a treasure so well fitted to her use, and Stephen the same. Intense, focused and yet, when I stopped and chatted, so relaxed. I've now read the book (thanks Stephen) and can relate to the adventures. I look forward to reading more of his writings and wish him well on future adventures .

John Harris

Chesapeake Light Craft: John Harris' slender designs have always intrigued me, graceful and elegant yet strong., these boats epitomise the monocoque taped seam plywood approach that was impossible until the advent of thermo setting resins (epoxy being the one we know best) and fibreglass tape. A little ways along the sidewalk, there was a crew busy lashing up the frame of a kayak that was very close to one of the original Eskimo (Inuit) types. I am sure that if I got out my copy of Quajak (I think it is spelled that way but my bookshelf is at home and I am not), I could identify the type and the geographic location of it's origins. Although nominally building for the same market slot, these people and Chesapeake Light Craft are at totally opposite ends of the spectrum: more contrasts!

Sam Devlin

I talked to Sam Devlin: I've admired his work for a long time, mulled over his articles on taped seam plywood construction and indeed have used some of the ideas in my own work. We don't see much of his design work here in New Zealand and it was a real pleasure to stand alongside a trio of his cruising powerboats and marvel at just how well the boats are suited to the Pacific Northwest and the great contrast of heat and cold that the seasons bring there. I can imagine ploughing along at eight or nine knots, warm and dry in the wheelhouse, while peering out past the windscreen wipers looking for the point where I turn in to find the jetty next to a friend's place.


Particularly nice was a little sailing scow to Sam's Lichen design. A gaff rigged centre-boarder, just a little less than 20 ft on deck, this is a really nice cruising yacht! Not conventional, but look at the history of the working sailing scows in the USA as well as here in Kiwiland, where they were instrumental in the establishment of industry and farming towns throughout our north island. Scows had to carry large loads in shallow waters, then make it down the coast in all weathers - abilities that are ideal for an inshore cruiser!

"Bella"  (more)

There were experimental designs too. One, that I can picture in my mind and cannot for the life of me recall the name of, was a sailing sharpie type designed for an inflatable collar along the gunwale just like the big outboard motor powered RIB's (Rigid Inflatable Boats). She is a long and narrow centre-boarder intended for ocean voyaging. The concept is really intriguing and I hope to hear how she gets on.

kayaks and big boats

Thinking over the experience as I sit in my office 7000 miles away there are flashes, like mental photographs in my mind. I listened to the chanties being sung in the beer tent, ate a "Naked Canadian" (it was a hotdog without onions, but I can't see the connection), watched a big schooner being shepherded out of the tiny harbour on a windy Sunday by a fleet of busy outboard inflatables. They were pushing and pulling to keep her straight and away from the moored boats in the confined space, working together like our sheepdogs do to control her enormous weight and windage. There were kayaks and rowing boats slipping along easily just off the beach with the big boats out in the channel providing a backdrop.

There was the view right across to Canada, lunch in the restaurant with David and sitting at a rustic picnic table attempting to discuss business with Sandra and Chuck. Being startled by a stranger in the crowd who addressed me by name, a stranger who turned out to be Jamie Orr. Marvelling at the sharpness of the hand forged tools on offer at one stand. I bought one of their small drawknives, it might just be the sharpest thing I have ever touched wood with and I think it will become a trusted friend in my workshop. (I've bought an 8000 grit water stone to maintain that edge with!)

I didn't take enough photos! I loved the place, but wasn't game to try and beat Brion Toss at the knot tying races; I envied an obvious beginner trying a sliding seat boat for the very first time - wobbling along and getting a good stroke in about every third try; I loved the little woodstoves and their cosy heat (particularly attractive on the Sunday when the weather tried to convince me that the area's reputation for cloud and rain was justified!) and could have sat all day watching the people. It was a long way to go to a boat show, it cost the thick end of a months salary and two weeks away from the day job. Worth it? You bet!

A couple of Sam Devlin's power cruisers.
A thunderbird
Mary Missing's San Francisco Bay Pelican
A Joel White design based on Herreshof's 12-1/2
George Kurzman and his Bella: The first wood-bottomed rigid-inflatable cruising boat.
A lapstrake Bolger Chebacco
'Grain O' Sand', a 26' Bartender designed by George Caulkins and built by Dan Meagher.
This is Jerry Hampton's 'Feather' built by Wayne Attle.
A Northwest School of Boatbuilding Whitehall rowing boat.
John Soini demonstrates green wood carving.
Ben Loudon of
This gentleman serenaded the crowd with a concertina.
This is a 'Little Dubber'
Longboats owned by Outward Bound

S/V Dorjan
Owned and operated by the Wooden Boat Foundation
25'4" Beebe-McLellan Self-Bailmg, Water-Ballast, Centerboard Lifeboat - Converted to a gafT-rig sloop
7'beam 2'7" depth Hull #234, Lapstrake yellow cedar planks on oak frames with bronze fasteners
Built in 1905 by Fred Beebe at Greenport, Long Island, NY, Built for the US Life Saving Service which became the US Coast Guard in 1915.

Dory for sale
A Crotch Island Pinky
A neat little inboard powered dory.
These guys sailed this William Atkins design all the way from Cody Wyoming.
A group of wooden power boats.
Kids love water.
'Suzy G' started out as a bare hull from Norseman Boat Works.
This Dugout Canoe took 2000 hours to build
 'Tlingit style' ....
.......the paddles look a while too.
A William Garden 'Puddle Duck'.
A Tom Tucker design featured in Woodenboat #10.
Iain Oughtred's 'Wee Seal'
Lapstrake flared bow runabout by Thompson Boat Co. of St. Charles, Michigan.
This little RC model buzzed the docks

Bye, Bye