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.
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.
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. You 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.
Next in series: Haida dugout canoes