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by Frank Coletta - Port Aransas, Texas - USA

I have a deep appreciation for maritime museums with boat building shops. If it weren't for such a place, I would still be just dreaming of building a boat. Building a small boat had been my dream since I was a kid. I just didn't have the confidence to tackle it on my own. In my late forties, I finally realized my dream thanks to the Working Waterfront Museum in Tacoma, Washington. They offered a class that guided students through building their own boat. It was a wonderful experience. I was hooked and was ready to build another boat.

Frank's first boat built at the Tacoma Working Waterfront Museum

Shortly after the class I made a career move to San Antonio, Texas. I set up a home workshop and independently built four more wooden boats. Then I heard about the Farley Boat Works in operated Port Aransas Museum. The Farley Boat Works is similar to the Tacoma museum shop in that they help folks build their own wooden boats. They provide shop space, tools, material and most importantly skilled guidance. I further learned of the Farley Boat Works historical significance. It was established in 1915 and prospered building wooden boats in Port Aransas until 1970. In 1937 President Franklin Roosevelt went fishing there on a Farley Tarpon Skiff skippered by one of the Farley brothers. How cool it that?

The Port Aransas Museum reestablished the Farley Boat Works in 2011. The mission of today's Farley Boat Works is to carry on the tradition of Port Aransas wooden boatbuilding by maintaining a working museum, open to the public, where students and volunteers come together to build wooden boats. To date, the Farley Boat Works has facilitated the building of forty-two wooden boats. Boats built at the Boat Works include the historical Port Aransas Skiffs, sailboats and stand up paddle boards. A scow schooner replica is also under construction there.

Port Aransas Skiff Built by the owner at the Farley Boat Works

I went on to volunteer at the Boat Works and got to know the Rick Pratt, the museum director. I was telling him that Chuck Leinweber the proprietor of Duckworks and I had been talking about how nice it would be to have a wooden boat festival in Texas. Rick immediately said that Port Aransas would be the perfect place for a wooden boat festival. The three of us met and decided to go for it. We named our festival the Port Aransas plyWooden Boat festival to distinguish us from other wooden boat shows. Plywood has revolutionized wooden boat building for both amateur and professional builders. The first annual Port Aransas plyWooden Boat Festival was held on October 17-19, 2014 at the Port Aransas Harbor.

With much effort and coordination we made it happen. Our first plyWooden Boat Festival exceeded our expectation. We had more than 90 wooden boats on display in the park and at the docks. The boats came from all over the country including Canada. We had five families each build a rowing skiff in three days. At the end of the third day they rowed them in the harbor before taking them home. Designers, John Welsford, Michael Storer, and Richard Woods did presentations and we had children building toy wooden boats. We knew we had a winner and we decided to make it an annual event.

Our Second Annual plyWooden Boat Festival is coming up October 16-18, 2015. This year we will host designers Jim Michalak, David Nichols, and Richard Woods. Families will again build rowing skiffs during the festival. This year we added the Michael Storer Quick Canoe for families to build. This year's festival will have more vendors, more food, children's activities, free rowing with a timed rowing competition. Farley Boat Works will be open on Friday and Saturday, for shop tours with Farley built boats and the scow schooner project on display. On Saturday we will have the Old Town Festival parade and gumbo lunch. On Sunday you can take your boat on a short group cruise to the Lydia Ann Lighthouse for a tour. Or, you can play in the Farley Classic golf tournament. Preregistration and more information are available at

Boats displayed at the 2014 plyWooden Boat Festival

The very popular Family Boat Building

Children building wooden toy boats

I realized my boat building dream thanks to the Tacoma Working Waterfront Museum. Now, as manager of the Fraley Boat Works, I am helping others realize their bot building dreams. For more information about building a boat at the Farley Boat Works. The Farley Boat Works is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday.

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