The Center for Wooden Boats – Part 4: Other available boats and some thoughts on livery services

So once more, for now, to the Center for Wooden Boats, getting back the the livery service, from which I got a nice sail in the Cape Ann dory Q’ONA. The service offers both oar- and sail-powered boats in a variety of sizes. I few more I liked:

Lake Oswego Boat

Lake Oswego Boat

The original 60-year-old boat was found in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Built by a Finnish boatbuilder in Portland as a stock boat, it was made using a half model which a customer brought to the builder. It became a popular boat at Skunk Lake, Oregon (which later became known as Lake Oswego). It may be a copy of the Rangely boat, a sporting boat developed on the Rangely Lakes of Maine about 100 years ago. The unique features (i.e. a flat-bottom plank in place of a keel and a two-part stem with inner and outer pieces) make the boat relatively fast to build. The current CWB Lake Oswego boat was built by students of Eric Hvalsoe.

Love the sheer on this one. I definitely want to take this for a spin on another trip…

Unless I can gather some friends, I’ll just look at the gig.

Pilot Gig Dan

Pilot Gig DAN

This 21’ rowing boat was designed and partially built by the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Townsend, Washington. The school’s founder, Bob Prothero, donated the unfinished boat to The Center for Wooden Boats in memory of Dan Dygert, a charter member of CWB. The boat was completed through donations in memory of Dan Dygert. The type is similar to the pilot gigs in the 18th and 19th centuries where fast and seaworthy rowing boats were used to carry ship’s pilots to vessels about to enter a port. The planking is red cedar, frames are white oak, fastenings are copper. The Dan is regularly used and maintained by a group of CWB rowers. It also has been used in traditional boat competitions. This type of boat also utilized by rowing clubs in Shelton, Olympia, and Anacortes.

Finally, this one, SILKIE, is for advanced sailors (I’ll have to pull together my credentials):

Joel White sloop SILKIE

She comes from the desk of Joel White. Yeah, no wonder she looks so lovely. I can’t find any reference to the design name (though I think I was told) – please fill in if you know. Anyway, she is as gorgeous a little sloop as you could want.

There are more, a fairly robust selection, all told. What struck me immediately, as I marveled at the set up, was why don’t other maritime history organizations do this? I know some of the answer: liability. Everyone’s afraid someone will put a boat on the rocks and they’ll get sued. The Center is renting, though, and has been for some time. This must be manageable. My new friend Zach, the manager of the service, appears to keep pretty good track of who has what experience and thus goes out in what boat. I imagine that if it is blowing like stink they keep the boats in. I bet this takes care of much of the problem.

I also asked Zach about the repair bill – do the boats get beaten up? He said they take some hits, but in general people were respectful – “good custodians” was his term – of the boats. He also made this wise point: “its better for them to be used than not.” To me this is the crux of the issue in a couple ways. First, people “get” these boats. One can look at the wood and the craftsman ship and see that they are not in a beater glass boat from a typical rental shop. Give people a chance and they will come to appreciate and care for these boats.

Furthermore, though, they will come to understand their beauty and value much more so than if they were looking at them on the shelf. When you use a boat you understand its performance and ideal purpose in ways you can’t just by looking at it. Sure, you can read a sign that say catboats were beamy because they were used to haul traps, but until you sail one you don’t see appreciate that stability and its trade-offs (e.g., ability to head to wind). Given that boat design is a science of trade-offs, this is a key lesson. Once people learn this and gain an appreciation, they will understand the value in preservation and continuing education. Few people, I think, would sail a dory like Q’ONA and not come away understanding what was missing in a more common production boat – and isn’t that really the mission of these organizations?

So come on, places like my beloved Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and get on this opportunity! Seriously, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has a huge shed filled with classic boats of the region, many of which are only capable of being pieces of history. Many of them, though, could have lines take off, and the Apprentice for a Day program could build replicas. Then people could take the boats out in St. Michael’s harbor and really get to know the boats and the ingenuity that their builder employed. You have to let people use these boats if you want them appreciated. Heres to the Center for Wooden Boats for showing others the way.

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