Keeping history alive
The Pacific Northwest community gathers each year to celebrate the culture and craft of wooden boats at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival
You’ll find a wide range of sail and power boats, in every imaginable configuration. Schooners, ketches, yawls, sloops, cutters, catboats, Chinese junks, gaff rigs, strip planked, cold-molded, stitched and sewn, runabouts, tugs, trawlers, lobster boats, wood-fired steam engines, single-cylinder diesels, solar propulsion, and so much more. The roster includes boats built between 1903 and 2023, ranging from a fleet of 8-inch toy boats a group of kids just made, to the 133-foot, gaff rigged 1913 schooner Adventuress.
We catch up with our sailing buddy Patrick Langley aboard the impeccable 1910 schooner Fame. Patrick was the restoration project manager for Fame’s previous owner, Dennis Conner. On the other side of the marina, Patrick’s brother, Pete, and his wife Cathy, are manning the Port Townsend Foundry booth, representative of the number of high-quality maritime companies showcasing their talents. Adjacent to them is Port Townsend Sails. Founded in the 1970s by Carol Hasse, the company was one of the only woman owned sail lofts in the world and helped kick start the town’s maritime trades renaissance. After she announced her retirement at the 2019 Festival, and a deep sense of responsibility to the staff she had mentored, Hasse was able to transition ownership through a Port Townsend shipwrights co-op. The sale represented a new generation coalescing and grabbing the torch to carry on centuries-old maritime skills.
We’re staying with shipwright Doug Jones and Debbie Dominici, owners of the 1947 Sparkman & Stephens yawl Pacifica. Avard Fuller, of Fuller Brush Co., had her built in the Henry B. Nevins Boatyard and launched as Eroica. Olin Stephens worked with the Fuller Brush Co. to fabricate the first extruded aluminum mast for a sailboat. The process was just one in a series of breakthrough innovations found in the yawls that Stephens designed during this period. But here’s the irony. Doug Jones is considered one of the best wood mast and spar builders in the country, yet he owns a boat with an aluminum mast.