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by Chuck Leinweber - Harper, Texas, USA

The Dream

There are lots of wooden boat shows around the country - and around the world for that matter. As an amateur boat builder, I have attended as many as possible. Perhaps 20 years ago, someone organized a wooden boat show at Lake Travis, near Austin, Texas. I went and had a great time. For the first time, I met other people who knew what "stitch and glue" meant. I was sure it was going to be the start of an annual high point in the lives of boat builders. But there was never a repeat and I could not find out why.

Fast forward 10 years or so and we had a rare opportunity to be in the Pacific Northwest at the time of the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival. Whoa! That was an eye opener! We wandered around for two days and still did not see all the boats. By the end of our time there, we were in a daze.

But being a backyard boat builder - who had learned instant boat building from the likes of Bolger and Payson - I had mixed feelings about all the traditionally built boats that were copper riveted cedar lapstrake over steam bent oak ribs. They are lovely boats, but something I could never hope to make. Anyway, there were examples of equally lovely lapstrake boats made in the glued ply method. But there was an unspoken feeling that anything using plywood, anything that was not caulked with cotton, anything that was not fastened with copper nails - was somehow just not up to par.

In spite of my misgivings about the hierarchy of the wooden boat world, I still felt there ought to be a show in Texas for the wooden boat builders and sailors in our part of the world. I knew we had them from my experiences with messabouts and raids in Texas and the surrounding states.

A group of boat builders at a recent Sail Oklahoma

The Opportunity

I had been able to help start a raid type event that we call the Texas200. It was never intended to be limited to home built or to wooden boats, but it turned out that a bunch of backyard boat builders from around the country were drawn to the event. One of them was Frank Coletta. Frank lives in San Antonio and sails a sweet little SF Pelican finished bright. Frank is an idea guy and liked the idea of a wooden boat show in Texas. Frank and I kicked around the idea of organizing something but never did anything until Frank got elected president of the Traditional Small Craft Association (TSCA) and met Rick Pratt. Rick is a long time boatbuilder from Port Aransas, Texas. These days, Rick runs the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association (PAPHA) which operates the Port Aransas Museum, a must see in Port A, and the Farley Boat Works, a boat building business established in 1915 and now serving as a community boat building center.

Frank Coletta and Bruce Grundy participating in the Texas200

Frank wrote that I needed to meet Rick and further that Port Aransas would be the perfect place for our Wooden Boat show. So on a Saturday morning last year, the three of us met and it was obvious that the Texas Wooden Boat Show idea had reached critical mass. Between the three of us, we figured we had enough talent and connections to at least make a valiant attempt to put on a credible event.

The Twist

Our first official meeting took place on January 4, 2014. We were ready to start hashing things out. I expressed my feelings about the fact that plywood boats were almost treated like orphans at Wooden Boat shows I had been to. I thought we should emphasize real boats built by real people who really use them. Rick immediately agreed but added that we should encourage museum pieces to be exhibited too. So I made a motion that we name our event "The Port Aransas plyWooden Boat Festival". We would have a show for all wooden boats with no prejudices. I liked the fact that the name was a clever play on words, but I was not sure it wasn't too clever. Oh, well, it's too late now as the word is out and no one has objected. So far.

Rick Pratt at Farley Boat Works.

What to Expect

The plan is to make the event a non-stop fun weekend for anyone who comes. It is our first year, and I think we have a plenty of stuff lined up for the whole family. In addition, the annual "Old Town Festival" will take place that same weekend, with all sorts of events of its own.

We will have several families building boats right there at the festival – they are scheduled to finish on Sunday and sail their new boats in the harbor (Click Here for more info or to sign up). There will be a tent for kids, boat rowing and paddling, a lighthouse tour on a larger tour boat, refreshments, tours of the historical Farley Boat Works and the recently acquired Scow Schooner, “Lydia Ann”. This Schooner, by the way, is actively under construction at the shop and visitors can lend a hand.

Glassing the Scow Schooner at Farley Boat Works

We will have (a bunch of) lectures, demonstrations, and slide shows by various notables. John Welsford will teach an “Essential Skills” boat building workshop at the Farley Boat Works on the Thursday and Friday before the Show. He will also give talks during the festival as will Richard Woods, Jim Michalak and others.

Where You Fit In

We need your help. We are appealing to all boat builders who can possibly come to bring their boats to be put on display. We have a large, grassy, 5 acres next to the harbor in Port Aransas for these boats and we want to fill that area up. We also have a number of slips in the harbor. There will be no entry fee for the festival and anyone who brings a boat for display will receive a voucher for an exclusive Saturday night dinner for the organizers, vendors, boat designers and other dignitaries as well as a fine T-shirt with our boat show logo - a fine piece of memorabilia.

Why is it important that you bring your boat? Two reasons. First, we really need this first year's event to be a success so we can attract more sponsors, vendors, supporters and visitors next year and in years to come. We do not want this to be a one time event. You don't either. Second, we want to inspire the "civilians" and newbies, who come to the show out of curiosity, to build their own boats. It is seems doable they are more likely to give it a shot. For this reason, we want the whole spectrum of boats from big to tiny, from polished to workboat finish. New boats, old boats, unfinished boats and boats that need to be rescued. If you have a wooden boat we want to see it there. We are even looking for partially built boats. We figure showing boats in the process of being built will help inspire folks to take the plunge and build one of their own.

Aerial view of the Port Aransas Marina. The grassy area on the right is where we will display boats in addition to those in the harbor.

There will be a lighthearted award ceremony at 1PM on Sunday to confer awards to boats which excel in categories such as: Best craftsmanship, Most classic, Best workboat finish, "Yes, it really floats", Most innovative, Most unique, Homeliest boat, Best unfinished, Traveled the farthest, etc.

The dates for the show are October 18 & 19 2014. Check out our website for more info:

We also would like to hear questions, suggestions, and gripes - you can email us or vent on our Facebook page:  

I’ll see you in Port A.

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