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by Pete Leenhouts - Port Hadlock, Washington - USA

A Busy Summer at The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding

The Boat School began summer courses in early June, 2011, with 45 full-time students in the Interior Yacht Construction and Repair and Restoration Courses.

The Interiors class, learns how to fit interior cabinetry into boat interiors, build cabinets and doors, and fit all the details of interior joinerwork into boats.


Students in the Interiors class are working on the interior of the 1890 tugboat ELMORE, building her a new forepeak interior including a bunk, hanging locker, head, pantry and paneling the area around an installed watertank. Instructor Jack Becker is leading that student effort in the Interiors class.

ELMORE alongside her pier near the Boat School

Students are also working on the interior of the 26-foot H. C. Hanson-designed Forest Service Boat built by instructor Tim Lee's Traditional Large Craft students during the 2010 and 2011 classes, and are fitting out the Paul Gartside designed 18-foot Jacquemont Sloop built by Instructor Jeff Hammond's Large Craft students during the 2011 class year this spring. Jeff keeps an experienced eye on the progress in these areas.

The Paul Gartside-designed Jaquemont Sloop being launched.

The Repair and Restoration class students, led by Instructor Ben Kahn, learned to tackle a very wide range of typical repairs encountered in this fascinating field. They are quite busy working on a wide variety of boats large and small. By this time of the academic year, the pace has picked up considerably, and students are learning to work at the pace that will be demanded of them in a commercial shop.

On the large craft repair side, one of the TRUANT class sloops built by the School in the middle-1990's is back in the shop for a complete restoration of the vessel's sternpost, deadwood and keel, a two year repair project that is expected to be completed by the 2012 Repair class.

The repairs to this TRUANT class sloop are extensive and great training for budding shipwrights. Student Reid Wilburn is examining the forefoot.

The late 1940's UK-built sailing vessel FELICITY ANN, in which the first woman crossed the Atlantic alone in the early 1950's, is in the shop for replanking and general repairs while we search for funding to continue the work on this remarkable boat.

The small California-built sloop AERION that has been worked on by four successive Repair classes with the patient support of her owner is nearly complete and ready to launch at the end of the class. That work has included a complete stem replacement, deadwood repair, replanking, and interior work as well as work in the cockpit over the years.

The Repair and Restoration class students are also finishing the interior and varnish work on the beautiful Herreshoff Buzzards Bay-14 built by instructor Ben Kahn and Ray Speck's 2010 and 2011 Small Craft classes as well as wrapping up work on the 18-foot 1922 Leigh Coolidge-designed sloop built by instructor Tim Lee's Small Craft class several years ago. The Coolidge is a beautifully trim sloop and was launched in late August.

Launching the Leigh Coolidge Sloop - designed in 1922 by the famous Seattle naval architect, and launched in 2011!

Finally, the ex-Navy lifeboat owned by former ADVENTURESS Master, Sailmaker, and Rigger Wayne Chimenti, who also runs the School's accredited High School programs in the Boat School's Community Boatshop during the school year, is in for repair. The extensive work includes frame repair, minor replanking, and a complete overhaul and replacement of her deck and deckhouse, a very large and demanding job, and one that will be completed by the next year's class.

On the small craft repair side, the Repair and Restoration students have tackled five projects. A 9-foot Grandy dating from the 1930's, badly damaged years ago during a storm and subsequently donated to the School, has undergone a complete transom and keel replacement, a complete reframing and several new planks. One of the two Penn Yann prams, built between 1948 and 1961, has been stripped down to bare wood. her broken frames and 1/8-in thick planks are being repaired. Upon completion, this attractive and surprisingly light pram will be recanvased.

Preparing to reframe the 9-foot Grandy Skiff.

Also under repair by students in the Repair and Restoration class is an 8-foot beautifully-built dinghy of uncertain origins. In fact, we've not been able to develop any substantive information about the "mystery boat", as we've taken to calling it. That hasn't precluded the students, led by Instructor Sean Kooman, from reframing the boat, replacing its sheer planks, making new knees and mast partners, removing the old transom and making a new one, and wooding (removing all paint and varnish) the entire boat. The class also worked on a small Herreshoff pram, and finished the 1930's era catboat MEHITABEL and launched her earlier in July.

"Wooding" the mystery dinghy. Instructor Sean Kooman, third from right, leads the work.
A test run in MEHITABEL, the 1930's-era Crosby catboat

The Boat School hosted boatbuilder Rich Kolin's very successful summer short course in Building the Heidi Skiff at the beginning of August, which was attended by eight students from as far away as Virginia. That beautiful little skiff will be painted by the upcoming evening paint and varnish class to be taught by local paint and varnish expert Diane Salguero that will run the week of August 22nd.

Heidi Skiff class picture. Instructor Rich Kolin, who designed this popular little skiff, is at right.

The School also hosted a Finishing Class taught by expert finisher Diane Salguero. The class was attended by twelve students from all over the local area. They worked on the Heidi Skiff built by Rich Kolin's summer class, a second Penn-Yan dinghy, a School-built Willliam Atkin "Teach" class sloop, and the contemporary Joel White-designed "Bangor Packet" rowing shell built by Instructor Bruce Blatchely's 2011 Contemporary class, a very striking boat indeed.

Finishing Class picture. Instructor Diane Salguero is fourth from right.

This year is the Boat School's 30th anniversary, and we enjoyed a very well-attended Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, August 6th co-hosted by the Puget Sound Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association. The School's five shops were open to the public as were the welding shop and blacksmith shop, and small craft both traditional and modern graced our shores during the day.

The Celebration was graced by the large Boat School-built cutter BRYONY (1983), the Atkin-designed "Gary Thomas" class BARAKAH (1995), and, swinging to a bouy, the School's first-ever sailboat, VIRGINIA (1982). The celebrations were enhanced by a great deal of afternoon sunshine for the first time in two years.

The Boat School celebrated its 30th anniversary August 6th, 2011

We capped off a very successful day by launching the 2011 Traditional Small Craft class-built Pete Culler-designed Yawl boat, and the 2009 class-built and owner finished Dudley Dix-designed DD-Mini keel boat. The icing on the cake was presenting the first Boat School burgees to the proud owners!

Celebrating the launch of the Pete Culler Yawl boat, and presentation of the first Boat School burgee to proud owner Dr Rich Foa MD, Alumni '11 (second from left) of Annapolis, Maryland. Executive Director Bill Mahler, right, congratulates Rich and gives Graham Cowgill, Alumni '11 a hand with the burgee, while Traditional Small Craft Instructor Jack Becker looks on.
Launching the Dudley Dix-designed DD MINI, finished out by proud owner David Blessing. We were looking forward to seeing how she sailed, but she is so fast we didn't get a single picture of her rocketing around the lower end of Port Townsend Bay!

Steaks, seafood and a beer garden hosted by perennial local favorite restaurant The Ajax made the 30th Anniversary Celebration complete. It was a lot of fun to host the event, and we're looking forward to doing so again in conjunction with the TSCA Puget Sound Chapter on Saturday, August 4th, 2012.

The School is looking forward to participating in the 35th annual Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend WA September 9-11, 2011. Not only will the School's very first sailboat, the gaff rigged VIRGINIA, built in 1981, be on display, we anticipate Festival visitors will see at least seven other large School-built boats on the piers and a host of smaller vessels as well, including at least six small craft displayed by the School.

Preparing the School's first sailboat, the 1982-built sloop VIRGINIA, for the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival. The bowsprit for the 1930's schooner DESTINY looms over VIRGINIA. Student Josh Moman has been leading the work on VIRGINIA in addition to working in the Repair and Restoration class.

Up in the new Jeff Hammond Boatshop, opened in late April, 2011, the Contemporary staff, led by Instructor Bruce Blatchley and supported by '07 boat school grads Amos Howe and Fred Shwiller, is finishing planking the hull of the 62' daysailor SLIVER designed by Bob Perry. The hull fairing has begun in preparation for sheathing the boat with 30 oz. tri-axial fiberglass cloth which will be bonded with WEST system epoxy. The deck mold has been completed and is ready for the incoming class to laminate 18 oz. bi-axial cloth and foam core. The new class will fair and sheath the inside of the hull and install the bulkheads and structure. The new shop and this project are a perfect match and both are greatly appreciated by the SLIVER students and staff.

SLIVER under construction in the Jeff Hammond Boatshop.

In the next calendar year Bruce hopes to add a Sam Devlin designed cruiser to the shop as well as numerous small craft built using a variety of contemporary wood and epoxy methods.

Finally, Sean Rankins, the master Sailmaker who runs NW Sails co-located with the Boat School School, is working on a variety of small craft sails while preparing for the 2012 Sailmaking and Rigging class to be offered January 9th, 2012 through March 23rd, 2012. Sean and his students will build sails for the tall ships ADVENTURESS and THE SPIRIT OF DANA POINT during the course.

This is a picture taken during the very successful 2011 Sailmaking and Rigging class earlier this year showing one of the students cutting out sail fabric.

This class will graduate on Friday, September 16th, 2011, with Associate Degrees of Occupational Studies in Traditional Small Craft, Traditional Large Craft, and Contemporary Wooden Boatbuilding. The School's 31st year will commence with the new class beginning work on October 11th, 2011.

The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding was founded in 1981 and carries on the vision of its founder, Puget Sound area Master Shipwright Bob Prothero, to teach and preserve the skills and crafts associated with wooden boatbuilding.

The School strives to impart sound, practical knowledge in traditional maritime skills, using wooden boats as the training medium.

The School's waterfront heritage campus includes five boat shops in addition to the School's administrative offices and an extensive library. Northwest Sails, which is associated with the School, maintains a large sail loft over the administrative offices and teaches a comprehensive Sailmaking and Rigging class annually from January through March. The School also has a large welding shop and a blacksmithing shop, and partners with the community boatbuilding program in a dedicated on-campus shop.

Nearly two thousand students have graduated from the School's vocational programs, and thousands more have attended summer and community workshops across the years. Many Boat School graduates work across the Pacific Northwest and the country where their craftsmanship, creativity and artistic talents enhance their communities. Boat School alumni can be found at work and on the water from the Netherlands to South Korea.

The School's programs include accredited 9 month diplomas and 12 month Associate Degrees of Occupational Studies in Traditional Small Craft, Traditional Large Craft, and Contemporary Wooden Boatbuilding.

The School also offers a 3 month Certificate program in Comprehensive Sailmaking and Rigging. Evening classes offered during the year range from piloting and navigation skills to marine engine familiarization and repair classes. Short week-long classes are also offered during the summer as space in the shops allow.

We welcome visitors to our shops year round. We are located in the little town of Port Hadlock WA, on the east side of Washington's beautiful Olympic Peninsula, at the foot of Port Townsend Bay, and about 40 miles or so northwest of Seattle.

The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding
42 N Water Street Port Hadlock WA 98339

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