John Welsford's website

John Welsford's design page

A few of John's designs:

Golden Bay/Setnet






From the Drawing Board
(occasional ramblings of a Small Craft Designer)

by JohnWelsford

Port Townsend (take two)

I went to the show. It wasn't easy, its over 7000 miles, mostly over water from my house to Port Townsend where the annual Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival is held. A long walk, and I needed to be back at work on Monday!

Friday should have been the best day, but I was several hundred miles away playing catch-up on the appointments that were paying a large part of my air ticket and crawling around among giant woodworking machines in sawmills. So it was Saturday morning that I walked in through the gates with David Le Blanc.

Nice weather, so nice that everybody I spoke to commented on it and pointed out that Puget Sounds reputation for rain was undeserved, methinks they protest too much! It was nice though and the two of us drifted from one treasure to another, keeping an eye out for Chuck Leinweber ( who neither of us had ever met which made the job a little more difficult) and chatting to people like John Harris of Chesapeake Light Craft. On reflection both Chuck and John had a much longer trip than I did, my travel was courtesy of Boeing and Airbus which although boring was pretty fast.

My impressions of the show are still a muddle, I have many mental pictures of lovely boats, big hefty converted fishing boats and a couple of charter schooners dominated the basin but in between there were some boats of a size that I could relate to. How about a pair of exquisite Nordic Folkboats, both close to original in construction and layout with low cabin tops and long cockpits preserving the grace of the clinker lined hull. There were a couple of Sam Devlins stocky little stitch and tape Surf Scoter launches, wonderful things for the climate and semi enclosed waters of the Puget Sound. On the Sunday morning I sat by a tiny wood burning stove at an exhibitors display ( the weather had turned cold and drizzly, more like the reputation of the area) and appreciated the reason for all of the smokeheads and chimneys on the boats, almost unheard of where I come from I suspect that they are a necessity rather than a luxury in Washington state.

I was very taken with a nicely built example of Sams "Lichen" design, a little scow bowed centreboard cruising yacht. Roomy and light inside for a boat of about 20 ft long on deck, the proportions of the cabin and the were perfect for the hull shape which was that of a bigger boat with the ends snubbed, big windows, comfy seating both in the cockpit and below, and the inevitable little stove putting out cheery heat.

Another that struck the eye was a short and chubby Iain Oughtred designed Wee Seal, altered by the builder ( as a designer I have mixed views on owner alterations, the designer is the one who still gets the blame if the boat is adversely affected by the alterations, please ask first) to have a full keel rather than a centreboard and set up for cruising around the Queen Charlotte and Puget Sound areas. A well done amateur built boat like this one can be a delight, with few constraints on the time that the project takes, and loving attention to detail the boats are often better than that which a professional yard with budgetary constraints and costs will produce.

There were interesting people, Sam Devlin with whom I was able to spend only a few minutes between his customers, Brion Toss in his rigging shop, the man at the tool stand with whom I talked knife steels and forges for half an hour . I bought one of his tiny drawknives, I suspect that I wont use it much but its a lovely tool and I needed to buy at least one souvenir.

I sat and listened to the sea chanties being sung in the "Beer tent", watched people, sat by the tiny Squeak and talked to Stephen Ladd about cruising small boats. It seemed to me that he has vast experience in one boat, while I have a little experience each in many boats, an interesting juxtaposition, and one that would stand some more exploration.

A sidewheel paddle boat cycled by, the Bike wheels on the sides equipped with paddle vanes and the single wheel at the stern fitted with a disk and steerable to act as rudder when in the water, all housed in a double ended plywood flattie and propelled by a recumbent bicycle .

Looked over the Chesapeak Light Craft stand, they have got the kitsetting of kayaks and light pulling boats down to a fine art, John Harris is another who I'd have liked to spend more time with but he had travelled a long way to be there and needed to put his time into his customers. Nice boats.

My main contacts were to be Chuck and Sandra Leinweber, and we must have missed by minutes many times, "yes he's been here, asking for you" was the answer at the CSL stand on several occasions. I guess if either of us had stayed in one place for a while we'd have connected earlier. But there was so much to see, most of needing more than one look.

We met Jamie Orr, across from Victoria in his Chebacco boat, I recognised the moustache from the pictures in his cruising stories , ate several times in the eating house on the hardstand, the food was fine but the help were a bit overwhelmed by the busyness of the weekend. I'd hate to be a waiter in a place like that, the demands on the memory are high and the pressure constant. Good food though, worth the wait.

I walked, looked through catalogues, picked up a few, walked, collected and handed out business cards, walked some more and talked some more. I'd spent a day imprisoned in airport lounges and aluminium tubes to get there, then as a part of my work spent four days ( over 2000 miles, Mr Hertz wont make much on that hire) in a car running back and forth to sawmills and machinery companies so walking was a relief.

And, just as it was looking as though we'd missed, a slightly built guy in a hat came up and addressed me by name. Hi Chuck, pleased to meet you Sandra, where can we sit and talk.

It was great meeting them, we had only a short time together, but we've met, and that will be the first of many meetings, hopefully not as rushed. We have a common interest in the boats, and of course the Leinwebers are agents for my plans . We talked about our different countries, boats, politics, boats, economics, boats, marketing, boats, business plans, boats, advertising, boats and at the end of an hour, decided to go eat, then meet in Jamie Orr's motel and talk, about boats.

All too short, but good fun, nice people and all of my silver coins are going in a jamjar to make a start on the next airline ticket. I suspect that Sandra and Chuck are thinking along the same lines, I know that David LeBlanc who was my guide and interpreter for the two days at the show is itching to come and see my country, and I am keen to see more of the USA, its people, and more boats.

John Welsford.