Posted on September 17, 2016
WoodenBoats in Port
The marina at the edge of Puget Sound with the Olympic National Park in the horizon, is the center of activity in the quaint little harbor of Port Townsend, Washington. It positively buzzes with activity every year in September with wood boats arriving from all over the western half of North America… including mine. I participated in the 40th Annual WoodenBoat Festival as a presenter (WoodenBoats in National Parks), as a wood boat builder, and as an enthusiastic admirer of boats made of wood. I had my river boat the “Obsession” on display amidst all the other small boats and if there had been an award for “rattiest”, my boat would’ve taken a trophy.
With scars and scratches from a life filled with adventure, it was quite a contrast to most every small boat on display around me. Every one of them looked like they just rolled out of a boat shop with a fresh coat. In contrast, my boat looked like it just rolled off the boat ramp, with a fresh mark. It was on a river trip the week before the Festival and it would be backed down a river ramp and running rapids the week after the Festival. I actually thought about putting a fresh coat of varnish on it before the show but simply ran out of time. So for my boat, it was a “come-as-you-are” party and I explained to anyone who stopped for a closer look that it was a “working boat”. I even proudly pointed to split ribs and chine dents and told the stories that gave my boat character. I rationalized that most of the boats in this neighborhood would never actually touch water let alone shred a Class IV on a wild & scenic river. Back in Oregon, we’d call them “garage boats” with derision – but I admired them just the same. The workmanship was inspiring and I had the urge to build another boat.
The evenings brought options. Either the live music from the Bar Harbor stage under the big canvas tent or the haunting sounds of the chanty songs from the old wooden community room on the far side of the marina where people gathered to sing old timey songs of the sea. Originally intended to set a rhythm for the strenuous manual work required of sailors who worked the tall wooden-ships of the day, they were at times bawdy and brawling but mostly they were wistful and melancholy. The songs, led by anyone in the room who felt led to answer the call which was presented to each attendee as a “request, pass, or lead” option…. spoke mostly of lost love, lost lives, and longing for home. The authentic voices and sad lyrics I heard that night will linger in my head forever.
At night, camping on Puget Sound, the air was filled with the sounds of the bells from the buoys, fog horns in the distance, and the gently crashing waves of the incoming tide . When the weather allowed, I left the tent and slept on the sandy beach in a bedroll and a Pendleton blanket on a Therm-a-rest inflatable pad and cot. Magical way to sleep with the stars overhead and the quarter moon rising.
I was field testing a new bedroll by my friend David Ellis called the Rocky Mountain “Swag-Bag” which provides a protective shell of the all-weather canvas bedroll and gives options for the padding and the bag that goes inside. For me it’s PERFECT. The pad I prefer is the neo-air by Therm-A-Rest and depending on the weather, I can slip my choice of sleeping bags inside the shell or when the temperature is right, just use my favorite Pendleton blanket.
Each morning, the dew was as thick as rain and the beads of moisture rolled off my bedroll each morning. I was cozy and dry even when the night-time temps dropped into the 40’s and if someone had a mute button for the sea-gulls I would’ve slept til noon. Oh – and there were a couple of presentations to give too – one on Saturday and one on Sunday talking about WoodenBoats in the National Parks
It was a great WoodenBoat Weekend in Port Townsend – already looking forward to next year!!