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40 Years: History of the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

  • Jefferson Country Historical & Art Museum 540 Water Street Port Townsend, WA, 98368 United States (map)

Kaci will join Carol Hasse at the Jefferson County Historical Society's First Friday Lecture series to present 40 Years: the history of the Wooden Boat Festival. Their talk includes photographs from 1977 up to present Festivals - and stories about the community who came together and continue to come together in Point Hudson marina to celebrate the joy of wooden boats. The talk is free and open to the public. Questions and stories from the audience are very welcome! See below.

First Friday Lecture:
Wooden Boat Festival Beginnings 

Sailmaker Carol Hasse, owner of Hasse & Company Port Townsend Sails and one of the founders of the Wooden Boat Festival, will talk about the festival’s history and growth with a panel of other speakers at the First Friday Lecture on November 3.  Joining her will be  former director of the Wooden Boat Foundation and Festival, Kaci Cronkhite.  The talk will include other participants who took part in the development of the festival.  Audience participation and story sharing is encouraged.

The first Wooden Boat Festival was held in 1977.  At that time Point Hudson, where the festival is located, was sleeper, funkier, and populated by idealistic young boat makers and craftsmen.  Point Hudson had been discovered just a few years earlier by boat-dwelling members of the counter culture who, rather than going back to the land like many of their generation, went to sea for the freedom and connection to nature.  Some learned skills to build and repair their boats and set up shops in reasonably-priced Point Hudson's historic structures. 

Hasse, who had learned sail making from traditional master Franz Schattauer, was working for Ron Harrow in his sail loft on the second floor of the old Armory Building (she would buy the business the following year).  Sam Connor had a boat building shop on the ground floor.  When Connor heard rumors that Wooden Boat magazine writer, Tim Snider, was scouting west coast locations for a new type of boat show that focused on learning wooden boat crafts, he contacted Snider and encouraged him to consider Port Townsend. 

Port Townsend and Point Hudson were perfect for the new festival. The first, in September of 1977, was a roaring success.  Eight hundred visitors were optimistically expected; instead, 3,000 wooden boat fans and 200 boats showed up.  Every year attendance grows; now over 30,000 people and 300 boats participate.  Even with the larger crowds, Hasse feels that each festival is as magical and inspiring as the very first one.

Some legendary stories, as well as almost forgotten memories, will be shared at the November 3 First Friday Lecture.  The lecture will start at 7:00 in the historic City Council Chambers at 540 Water Street in Port Townsend.