The 33rd annual Wooden
Boat Festival hosted by the world-renowned Center For Wooden Boats
was held 4-5 July this year on the Center’s campus on south
Lake Union a mile or so north of downtown Seattle.
We are fortunate, indeed, that CWB Founding Director Dick Wagner
and his wife Colleen saw in the late 1960’s the potential
in a run-down location on Lake Union in the heart of Seattle and
devoted their life’s work to developing one of the premier
places in the United States for visitors to enjoy an intimate
connection with wooden boats and boating in the heart of a great
||Enjoying the shallows on the south end of Lake
Union at the Center for Wooden Boats
The Festival is great mix of sail and power as well as professional
and amateur builders. It is always well-attended by an enthusiastic
crowd of visitors, boat owners and enthusiasts. The “boat
fever” attendees seem to bring with them to the show is
Boats at the Festival this year ranged from the Center’s
ubiquitous El Toro sailing prams (less than eight feet long),
right up to the 1913-launched 133-foot long gaff-rigged schooner
and the 1924-launched 127-foot-long sailing vessel ZODIAC (https://www.schoonerzodiac.com/).
Racing hydroplanes from the Seattle Outboard Association were
displayed in the spacious confines of the former Navy Reserve
Center next to the Center’s piers in addition to slim rowing
shells and artists works. Elegant runabouts shared dock space
with plywood prams and professional baidarka builder Cory Freedman’s
skin boats (www.skinboats.org).
An aged Norwegian fishing boat built around 1800 and currently
under restoration was trailer-displayed by the Nordic Heritage
The historic steam ferry VIRGINIA V (https://www.virginiav.org/)
was active taking visitors out for a spin around the Lake, while
the 1889 tugboat ARTHUR FOSS, a part of the historic fleet at
the Northwest Seaport https://www.nwseaport.org/
hosted hundreds of visitors aboard. Throughout the show, the Center
for Wooden Boat’s sharpy fleet and other livery boats were
quite active squiring guests around the Lake Union.
Festival activities included free boat rides on Center boats,
pond boat activities for kids, Quick and Daring Boatbuilding,
canoe carving, and baidarka building activities. In addition,
CWB hosted tours through the offsite boat storage facility where
boats that are too valuable or too fragile to put back into the
water are maintained.
As you might expect, boat finishes ranged from what seemed to
be acres of gleaming varnish on the big old 1920’s power
cruisers to smart paint on the little salmon trollers. Several
vessels that looked like live-aboards were also displayed by their
owners along the Center’s piers. “Workboat finishes”
could be seen here and there – scuffed paint and chipped
varnish indicated that the boat had been recently used. It was
clear and convincing evidence, as always, that wooden boats can
be used and enjoyed in virtually every stage of repair.
Most vessels welcomed visitors as well, asking only that shoes
be left on the piers. Owners were more than happy to show guests
how their vessel was built and maintained as well as upgraded.
Here are some interesting pictures from the show. I tried to pick
pictures emphasizing the small craft present at the show.
||This beautiful 15-foot sailboat welcomed visitors
to the Festival. It was built by professional builder Eric
Hvalsoe and students at the Center for Wooden Boats a few
||The Phil Bolger-designed TOMBOY was owner-built
in 1989. A self-draining cockpit, easily stepped masts and
comfortable accommodations, Bolger trademarks, are evident
in this trim little boat.
||The wooden racing hydroplanes of the Seattle
Outboard Association (www.seattleoutboard.org)
always attract a lot of interest. This year, visitors were
offered the opportunity to drive one of the hydroplanes at
speed over a lake racing circuit later in July.
||Center for Wooden Boat visitors enjoy a ride
on Lake Union’s placid waters in one of the Center’s
Sharpies during the Festival. This activity goes on year-round
via a wide range of both sailing and rowing livery (for public
rental) boats at CWB.
||This dugout canoe, constructed traditionally
by the Haida carver Saaduuts and volunteers between 2005-06
(which included steaming the sides of the hull into shape
using hot rocks and water), was launched during the 2007 Festival.
||The elegant cruiser SEA LASS glittered in the
sunshine that prevailed throughout the Festival.
||The trim 1932-era speedboat designed by Ed Monk
and traditionally built in 2008 by the Northwest School of
Wooden Boatbuilding (www.nwboatschool.org)
in Port Hadlock on the Olympic Peninsula attracted appreciative
visitors during the show.
||A hidden surprise at the Festival was this little
Hughes Sportster dinghy – built hot-molded probably
at the end of or just after WWII by the Hughes Aircraft Company
in California…yes, that Howard Hughes.
||The 1914 pilot schooner ADVENTURESS, based in
Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula, was most impressive.
||The 1897 Parisian Rudderless daysailer GEORGIA
was built in 1992 by students at the Gompers Boat Shop at
Seattle Central Community College Wood Construction Division
||This plywood pram was hidden at the end of one
of the piers at the Festival. There were many such little
gems at the Festival.
The Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival is always a great way to
spend an enjoyable day in Seattle on Lake Union.
Pictures by the author Pete Leenhouts.