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On the Docks

How to get on the water Building Ama Sailing with PTSA Martha, rejuvenated

2 5 7 10

Supplement to the Wednesday, March 12, 2008 Leader

Want to get on the water in Port Townsend? One way is to join the Rat Island Rowing and Sculling Club, whose members are shown here. The club is dedicated to providing the greater Port Townsend community opportunities to learn and improve rowing skills, while preserving the legacy of traditional wooden racing shells. Photo by Kelly Joines

On the water


The short walk to many piers in Port Townsend

he Olympic Peninsula’s northeast tip, where the currents of the Strait of Juan de Fuca run into Puget Sound, is known to many as the wooden boat capital of the West Coast. With all of our access points to Puget Sound, there’s no reason to spend your time “stored on the hard” like the many boats under repair at the Port of Port Townsend Boat Haven. They are destined for the sea, and even the un-saltiest of landlubbers can be also. When the craftsmen of old – in the yesteryear of 1977 – were finished with their work for the season, they called for the first Wooden Boat Festival. More showed up than expected, and many sailors and more craftsmen stayed. Year after year the festival grew, and as Diana Talley of the Marine Trades Association puts it, “It helped to spawn our culture.” The Wooden Boat Festival is still a yearly nautical shindig. Festival Director Kaci Cronkhite says that during the fes-

tival, celebrated on the weekend after Labor Day, there are about 200 boats in the marina. Visitors can go aboard many; some will take you for a sail. Year-round, one of the easiest ways to get on the water is to visit the Northwest Maritime Center/Wooden Boat Foundation at Hudson Point Marina and rent a rowboat. No supervision is necessary. But there’s so much more. “The water surrounding us is this enormous playground,” says Rob Sanderson, NWMC/ Wooden Boat Foundation waterfront programs manager and boat captain. “Everybody who lives in this town should know how to sail.” So they teach. The NWMC/Wooden Boat Foundation provides maritime education and recreation for ages 7 to 99: pirate classes for kids, longboat charters for adults and a vast assortment of seagoing adventures for everyone. You can even bring the family and build a boat of your own. Their excursions are guided by U.S. Sailing certified captains with first-aid and CPR See WATER, Page 4

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On the Docks 2008 • 3



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Water Continued from Page 2

training, and they supply all the gear. Walk a hundred yards or so down the dock to 227 Jackson St. and you’ll find one of the oldest whale-watching organizations around. Capt. Pete Hanke of Puget Sound Express runs a passenger ferry from Hudson Point to the San Juan Islands. He guarantees you’ll see a whale on the special four-hour tour, and you might also see two different types of porpoises, and sea lions. He says that out there, the harbor seals are plentiful and there are not only orcas but also the occasional humpback, minke or gray whale. If you’d rather row at water level, you can buy or rent a sea kayak. “It can be an almost Zenlike experience when the water is benign and beautiful," says Walt Washington, owner of Port Townsend Outdoors at 1017 Water St. “It can be a terrifying experience when things change.” Walt tracks the weather and limits kayakers to staying within 200 yards of the shoreline. In addition to renting and selling kayaks, Washington gives tours and teaches classes to keep the odds weighted toward the Zen. If you rent one of his kayaks, you have to take a class. If you buy one, you get a class for free. If you’re coming into town shouting, “land ho!” you must make arrangements ahead of time with the Port of Port Townsend moorage office. If your boat is 50 feet or longer and you want permanent moorage, you need to plan five years ahead of time for a slip of that size at the boat haven. Twentyfooters might find a slip immediately, depending on the time of year and luck. Members of yacht clubs get discounts on moorage from the Port Townsend Yacht Club, which also keeps a few extra slips for visitors. PTYC trustee Frank Boyle says the yacht club takes trips for up to four months at a time. There’s also the U.S. Power Squadron, whose members share an interest in cruising. Both meet regularly and offer nautical courses. The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader

Building Ama

Northwest School of Wooden Boatbulding students construct 36’ motor sailer


By Blythe Lawrence

t was a white, 3-by-5-inch card that launched the 36-foot motor sailer Ama Natura into existence. “Large boat projects wanted” proclaimed the sign at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding booth at the 2005 Wooden Boat Festival. The boat school had a problem that year: A class of 21 students was scheduled to start a project for the school’s traditional large-craft program in January, but they had nothing to work on. Portland resident Peter Wilcox happened by the booth and wrote out a request: He was looking for someone to build a special boat, designed by Port Townsend’s Carl Chamberlain, that he and his wife could take sailing. At the boat school, students spend the first two hours of their day in a classroom and then proceed into a shop area to put their lessons to use. During the first three months of the year-long program, they focus on learning about various tools, and safety. After that, they typically work on a boatbuilding project. But what that project would be was still undecided – until Wilcox and his wife Bridget came along. “About halfway through that first semester, we didn’t even know what we were going to do,” recalled Doug Ball of Woodbridge, Calif., a member of the boat school’s class of 2005-06. “They needed a project, we needed a boat,” Wilcox said at the finished product’s Jan. 19 launching at Sea Marine at Hudson Point Marina. “There’s a lot of The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Hadlock had the muscle in this boat, as well as heart.”

Building education

To some, the idea of having your custom-designed boat built by novices might seem akin to asking a kindergartener who has just started piano lessons to perform Beethoven’s Ninth. But the quality of the boats produced by previous students, combined with instructors Richard Wilmore’s and Jeff Hammond’s reputations for excellence, could not be overlooked. Nor could the idea of helping to train future boatbuilders. “Some people like to build education,” said Bill Mahler, director of the boat school. “They’re getting a boat and helping train people for marine careers. It’s kind of a win-win.” The Wilcoxes were into building education. Because the boat would not be finished in a single year, it was decided that two classes, the class of 2006 and the class of 2007, would work on the project. “We all got real excited,” says Ball, who describes his year at the wooden boat school as one of the best of his life. “None of us ever thought we were going to build something this big.”

Building Ama

The boatbuilding began in earnest in January 2006.

The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader

classes of 2006 and 2007 work on this 36-foot motor sailer. It’s one of the largest boats students have built.

It took an entire month to loft the vessel. Once that was done, students broke into groups to complete various projects, including building the keel from layers of mahogany and carving a huge 8-by-12-inch stem into its curved L shape. The students of the 2006 large-craft course built the stem, keel and transom. Those students gave the boat over to the yacht interiors students, who spent the summer building cabinetry, raising panel doors, cabin soles and engine beds, as well as the mast step and its partner. The skills the yacht interiors students were learning can be applied to any field that uses woodworking, Mahler said. “The skills and crafts we’re teaching our students go beyond wooden boatbuilding,” he added. “Boats happen to be the vehicle we use to teach those lessons.” The boat became a passion for 2006 graduate Brian Lyman, who laid the transom with classmate Miles Sherman. “We broke into school on a Saturday and did work on it,” Lyman said. For 2007 boat school graduate Leah Claire, working on Ama was a whole new world. “I never used tools before, so I was definitely ground floor,” said the petite Claire, who said she

“They needed a project, we needed a boat.” Peter Wilcox owner

spent a lot of time in the boat’s engine compartment because she was one of the smallest students. “When it started looking like a boat, it was really cool.” After the summer of 2006, construction took a three-month hiatus while the class of 2007 learned the basics of boat construction. Those students finished the planking and caulking, painted and installed hardware. A second year of yacht interiors students put the finishing touches on the vessel during the summer of 2007. After two years, an estimated 20,000 hours of instruction, and the hard work of 29 boat school students, Ama Natura launched in January at Hudson Point Marina. Photos by Elizabeth T. Becker

Community effort

Peter and Bridget Wilcox poured champagne over See AMA, Page 6

On the Docks 2008 • 5

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“I’m sailing, I’m sailing!”


Continued from Page 5

the bow of the Ama Natura before former students and their instructors. “I was so glad to see it float upright,” confessed Claire, who now freelances as a boat refinisher. Ama was a community effort, Wilcox said. “Everybody who touched this boat or thought about it in any way, this is your boat too,” Wilcox declared. (Blythe Lawrence is a staff writer with The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader.)

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385-2900 6 • On the Docks 2008

The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader

Sailing Association welcomes novices, old salts alike


Wednesday evening, Friday evening race series are set

of us in the community who wanted to see the events continue. The foundation asked us to help them put on that year’s Classic Mariners’ Regatta, and with folks like Ted Pike, Alex Spear and Bertram Levy pitching in, we had a successful race. It got us thinking, ‘Why not keep doing this?’ and the idea of the Port Townsend Sailing Association was born.”

By Elizabeth T. Becker

en years ago, local sailmaker Sean Rankins, owner of Northwest Sails, was frustrated that there weren’t more local venues for sailboat racing. “Ed Barcott’s group, the Quimper Tars, which was originally called the Port Townsend Sailing Association before we stole their name, got together for weekly races, but that was about it,” recalls Rankins. “Our one big event was the annual Classic Mariners Regatta, which was run by the Wooden Yacht Racing Association for many years.” While on the Wooden Boat Foundation board in the late ’90s, Rankins and others started the wheels turning to expand the opportunities for sailors on Port Townsend Bay. “We were all saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we had more events to encourage folks to get their boats out on the water?’ So Pete Johnson and I got together and started the Sea Dogs’ Regatta, which included tests of all sorts of maritime skills in addition to racing. That was also about the time the annual Shipwrights’ Regatta began. And then we figured we’d offer a seven-race series in the spring and see if anyone showed up.” Show up they did. The series was so successful that a second and third series (for winter and fall) were added the following year. At first, the series were run like the Quimper Tars races, with no formal race committee. But in a very unfortunate turn of events during the first race in spring 2001, Rankins’ boat, Havhesten, sank, leaving him unhurt but boatless. (Havhesten was recovered and restored, and races once again.) Without a boat, Rankins decided to take on the role of The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader

Sailing with PTSA The PTSA became an independent 501(c)(3) organization in 2006, with a five-member board that included Rankins and Pike, along with Kathy Grace,

Here’s the start of a Friday evening Port Townsend Sailing Association race on Port Townsend Bay. The Spring Photos by Whitecap series starts April 4.

“It’s a great way to improve your sailing skills, whether you’re a novice or an old salt. And it’s really fun.” Larry Eifert Port Townsend Sailing Association

Small and fast, Pinger, skippered by John Bailey, enjoys the brisk breeze during a 2007 Cat’s Paw series race on Port Townsend Bay.

race official, standing at the end of City Dock with signal flags and air horns to start the races and track finishers. As time went by, he was joined by Myron Gauger, who brought a passion for racing rules, handicap ratings

and statistics, as well as a commitment to the local sailors. The races were run under the umbrella of the Wooden Boat Foundation, which provided insurance coverage and handled U.S. Coast Guard permits. The

foundation’s boat, the Martha J, was called into use to set marks. “After I left the board at the foundation, there really wasn’t anyone there to continue running the races and regattas,” said Rankins. But there were enough

Larry Eifert and Don Haviland. The group was able to obtain insurance coverage through the U.S. Sailing Association, and a website was created to post race schedules, results and announcements. With a great deal of persistence on the part of Eifert, contributions of buoys, anchors and line from West Marine and Admiral Ship Supply, and diving assistance from Grant Ausk at the Townsend Bay Dive Shop, four “permanent” buoys were installed to serve as race marks. “We occasionally have to go and retrieve the buoys when they go astray,” says Eifert, “but overall they’ve worked out really well. One actually almost made it to the San Juans with the anchor and rode attached beforSee SAILING, Page 8

On the Docks 2008 • 7

Voluntary Eelgrass Protection Zone WELCOME BOATERS! Historic buildings are just one precious resource in our seaport town. Below the waters of Port Townsend Bay are acres of eelgrass beds. Eelgrass reduces shoreline erosion and provides critical habitat for salmon, crab and more. It’s a risky place to anchor – loose sediments provide poor anchor holding and the fragile plants are easily damaged and uprooted. The Voluntary Eelgrass Protection Zone is identified by seasonal marker buoys most of the year, but when buoys are not in place, please anchor seaward of Port Townsend’s many docks and wharfs. Anchor out of safety and salmon!

Shoreline features: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

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Sailing Continued from Page 7

we recovered it.” Each year, the PTSA hosts three multirace series (spring, winter and fall) along with several longer events. Members (numbering more than 40 in 2007) volunteer their time and talents. Gauger still serves as the head of the race committee, with help from a dedicated group of race officials. In 2006, PTSA recruited Vern Barnett and his 1956 Chris Craft Comet to serve as the official committee boat, making life much more comfortable for the officiating crew. In 2007, local shipwright Arren Day crafted a signboard system (large wooden letters posted on the aft deck of the committee boat) to indicate the layout of the day’s race course to the fleet. The classic cruiser Emmeline, skippered by Jack Becker, acts as the semi-official PTSA photography boat. The group even has its own greenand-white burgee and publishes a yearly calendar that lists all of the races and features photos of member boats. Sailing community As board president, Kathy Grace has been holding the group together for two years, devoting countless hours to keeping things organized, from big stuff such as taking care of legal documents to little stuff such as providing sandwiches for the race committee. On race days, however, Kathy has taken a few hours off from her official duties to join husband Chris on their Concordia yawl Lotus and enjoy the competition, and she will have more time to enjoy sailing now that she has turned over her presidential duties to newly elected Ted Pike. “Without Kathy, this wouldn’t be the functioning organization that it is,” comments Eifert. “She’s an amazing person who epitomizes the spirit of the Port Townsend sailing community.” What defines that “community” and the PTSA? “For me, this organization is all about putting people and boats on the water,” Eifert says. “By having scheduled events, it’s a great motivator to get your boat out of the slip and go out and sail. It’s a great way to improve your sailSee sailing, Page 9

The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader

Volunteers power the Port Townsend Sailing Association, including people aboard the committee boat. Here, that boat is Comet, skippered by Vern Barnett.


Continued from Page 8

ing skills, whether you’re a novice or an old salt. And it’s really fun. One of my crew members (who doesn’t have his own boat) told me that the Friday race is his ‘golden moment of the week.’ I think that pretty well sums it up.” When asked about the image of cutthroat sailboat racers, Rankins laughs. “We’re not that kind of group,” he explains. “For one thing, we cherish our boats too much to risk damaging them. And we’re out there to have fun, practice our racing skills and have something to tell stories about at the pub afterward.” He adds that a few of the skippers have taken their boats and their finely honed skills to other events around Puget Sound, such as the Whidbey Island Race Week and the Swiftsure International Yacht Race out of Victoria, B.C. Most, however, simply enjoy the camaraderie of sailing their boats around Port

Townsend Bay with a congenial group of folks. New members The PTSA welcomes new members, those with boats of their own or those ready to sign on as crew or as members of the race committee. Joining the committee for a couple of races is a good way to see how races are run, while joining the postrace gatherings at Sirens Pub is a good way to meet skippers who have room for crew. Annual membership is $75 for skippers, $20 for crew members and $10 for sailors ages 15 to 18. The $20 membership includes the option of adding your name to the crew list, a great way to find a boat to sail on. There are no restrictions on types of vessels – as long as they sail. A special category for dinghies, with shorter race courses, is being formed to encourage more small boats to take part. “I strongly encourage anyone who wants to get out on the water to join us,” says Eifert. “You don’t have to have a fast

boat or be a super sailor. All you have to do is have $75.” He laughs, then adds, “Actually, you don’t even have to be a member to race. It’s open to everyone, and we welcome anyone who wants to come out and join us, even if just for one or two races. If you end up becoming a member, so much the better. But our main goal is to get as many folks out there on boats as we can.” (Freelance writer and photographer Elizabeth T. Becker is a member of the Port Townsend Sailing Association.)

PTSA race series The Port Townsend Sailing Association’s first general meeting of the 2008 season is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 3 at Sirens Pub downtown. The season’s three race series are: • Spring Whitecap, 6 p.m. on Fridays, from April 4 to June 6. • Summer Cat’s Paw, 6 p.m. on Fridays, from June 13 to Aug. 29. • Fall Night Cap, 1 p.m. on Sundays, from Sept. 14 to Nov. 2.

Quimper Tars The Quimper Tars host a sailboat race series on Wednesday evenings, April 2 through Sept. 3. Skippers meet at the picnic table next to the Port of Port Townsend Boat Haven yard office at 5 p.m., followed by a starting time of 6 p.m.

Learn more For Port Townsend Sailing Association race schedules, race courses and information on membership, visit www.

The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader

On the Docks 2008 • 9

Martha, rejuvenated Schooner Martha gets first major rebuild in 101-year history


grown to love the old schooner. Salguero and d’Arcy both spring from New England families with no small amount of sawdust drifting through the family genes. D’Arcy learned from his father and as a professional shipwright at Mystic Seaport, Conn. Salguero grew up as a “wharf rat” who was trained by his uncle in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., and at the Maine Maritime Academy. He dabbled in architecture and drafting but keeps coming back to his roots in wooden boats.

By Ross Anderson

own along Water Street, we’re accustomed to watching the grand schooner Martha glide effortlessly past the waterfront, sails bulging, framed by the snowcapped Olympics. But these days, the exquisite 101-year-old yacht sits on blocks at Port of Port Townsend Boat

“As a shipwright, you have to love a project like this that requires new skills.” Antonio Salguero master shipwright

Haven, her belly laid open and her ribs exposed like a heart patient laid out on an enormous surgical table. Master shipwrights Robert d’Arcy and Antonio Salguero, aided by a primarily volunteer team, make their way from bow to stern, prying away at timbers the size of tree trunks, poking and prodding for soft wood or corroded fasteners, replacing oak beams and square nails that date to the time when Teddy Roosevelt was president. “We just learned that the sternpost is gone,” says d’Arcy, Martha’s skipper, project manager and fulltime caretaker. “But that’s the kind of surprise you learn to expect.” This winter, the Martha is undergoing perhaps the most thorough renovation in her century-long maritime career: all

The square nails in Martha’s oak beams date from the era when Teddy Roosevelt was president. Master shipwright and Martha skipper Robert d’Arcy and a mostly volunteer team are giving the 101-year-old schooner what is perhaps the greatest renovation in her century-long maritime career: all new planking, new frames and timbers. Photos by Ross Anderson

new planking, new frames and timbers. It’s a daunting task, essentially rebuilding the hull of an 84-foot historic landmark without corrupting her elegant profile. And Port Townsend is one of the few places on earth with the necessary will and expertise to carry it off. The project is the culmination of a decade-long campaign, organized and largely carried out by d’Arcy. When the winter’s work is done, Martha will be more new boat than old. All that will be left of the original will be her keel, interior cabinetry and her ship’s wheel.

10 • On the Docks 2008

Martha’s life story is well known down on the Port Townsend waterfront. Built in 1907 amid the ashes of San Francisco’s Great Earthquake, the yacht had a series of owners, including actor James Cagney, industrialist Edgar Kaiser and the Four Winds-Westward Ho Camp on Orcas Island. For the past 11 years, she’s been operated by the nonprofit Schooner Martha Foundation, which supports its sail-training programs with private charters around the Pacific Northwest. Each fall, when Martha completes her season of sail training

and charters, she returns to port, where d’Arcy rolls up his sleeves and tears into another portion of the landmark vessel. “Most people look at a job like this and their jaws drop; they’re scared to death,” d’Arcy says. “To me, it’s exciting. You don’t dawdle. You just dive in and start your demolition.” This year’s project is truly major surgery. D’Arcy has teamed up with Salguero, the Shipwrights Co-op, students from the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Hadlock, Edensaw Woods and any number of friends who have

“As a shipwright, you have to love a project like this that requires new skills,” says Salguero, pointing to Martha’s enormous, all-wooden rudder. “This is absolutely unique. This is why I love this work.” It’s more than just replacing 100-year-old timbers. The project also involves undoing the work done by previous repairs. “During the 1950s and 1960s, people dealt with the result of a problem rather than dealing with the problem itself,” d’Arcy explains. The project benefits Port Townsend in a variety of ways, he says. It generates work for Salguero and others at the co-op as well as invaluable experience See MARTHA, Page 11

The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader


Continued from Page 10

for the students and other volunteers who aspire to the trade. It highlights Port Townsend’s emergence as a world-class center for the classic skills necessary to build and maintain traditional wooden boats. And it ensures the survival of an extraordinary vessel that will continue to sail Northwest waters for decades to come. D’Arcy expects that the rebuilt hull will enable Martha to work longer seasons and to venture to the outside of Vancouver Island, and perhaps beyond. Eventually, he expects the tab to reach $120,000, most of which will come from donations and grants. Without all the volunteer help, it would be closer to $400,000, he says. And how much to build a new, 84-foot schooner of Martha’s dimensions? Maybe $4 million, d’Arcy says.

The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader

Martha cuts a dramatic figure when under sail.

Maybe more. It’s an academic question, because chances are nobody

will ever attempt to build another Martha. But, if they do, it’s likely

Photo by Michael Berman

they’ll do it right here in Port Townsend. (Ross Anderson, sailor,

writes the On the Waterfront column for The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader.)

On the Docks 2008 • 11

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For 15 years Westside has been the regional specialist in the exceptional Yamaha engines that most fishermen and recreational boaters swear by. Yamaha has been rated the world’s best four-stroke engine by J.D. Powers for four years. The make has been ranked as the world’s most easily started and reliable engines for 10 years. Westside Marine is much more than the home of new boats and engines. The showroom is full of boating gear and good advice on what the boater really needs. Randy and his staff are low-key and knowledgeable on a wide variety of equipment for boats, trailers and fishermen. Unlike some other shops, Westside specializes only in marine boat equipment and repairs. There’s nothing else to distract them, and their training is focused on marine equipment. “Our goal is to keep our customers out there using their boats,” said Randy. The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader

2008 On the Dock  
2008 On the Dock  

The Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader's 2008 On the Docks marine trades special publication.