The Center for Wooden Boats – Part 1: Sailing the Cape Ann Dory Q’ONA

Center for Wooden Boats logo

I was in Seattle for business last week, which allowed me to make a pilgrimage to the Center for Wooden Boats, a place so cool I cannot contain it to a single post, nor even two. In fact, friends, a roughly two-and-a half-hour visit gave me four interesting posts to lay out for you. This place is everything I expected and then a bunch more.

Center for Wooden Boats entrance

Here’s the overview, for those not familiar. The Center for Wooden Boats is, on the surface, a museum of small, classic boats that happens, unlike others of its type, to be set smack in the middle of a major American city. Right away, that gives it some cache. The thing that first drew me to the place, however, and I have known of it for a couple years, was the fact that this museum has a livery service. In short, for many of the boats, you can not only touch them, you can use them. At a very reasonable cost, too. Brilliant concept, and I have been itching to check it out. Thursday, 6/12, was the big day.

After looking around a bit, I found my way to the livery shack, where the manager, Zach, gave me a going-over on my sailing chops before letting me free on Lake Union. There were some nice options: a few Beetle cats (never actually sailed one), some small prams (seemed a bit tame), some knockabouts (a bit much for single-handing, first time out). Then something a little different caught my eye: the boat I was to come to know as the Cape Ann dory Q-ONA. Now she was the ticket.

Downtown Seattle across Lake Union

Several minutes later, I was aboard and skippering Q’ONA across Lake Union (which, for those who haven’t experienced it, is real lake sailing, with 30 degree wind direction changes and the like). With a gunter rig and small jib, she sailed well in the pleasant breeze. The biggest challenge was the one design feature that was really new to me: the push tiller. Yikes – that was weird. Everything you know is wrong. For the uninitiated, the tiller extends to an arm the sticks out athwartships from the head of the rudder. Cape Ann dory Q-ONAYou basically operate the rudder by pushing and pulling on this arm with the tiller, so going to starboard was always a pull forward and port always a push aft. My reflexes are so tuned moving the tiller toward or away from the sail to tack and jibe, though, that I got fouled up there. It was fun to play with this boat and get to know this style.

Unbeknownst to me when I first selected Q’ONA, she occupies an esteemed spot on the “Bud’s Favorites” list (named for a longtime volunteer). I began to sense that my tastes pleased the regulars. As I was heading to the boat to embark, I guy passing by on the float beamed at me and said boisterously “Dude! I love that you are taking the dory out. That’s awesome!” I’m telling you, this place is fantastic.

Your captain

Next in series: Haida dugout canoes

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