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A Letter from the Executive Director: Upcoming Changes at CWB

August 6, 2010

As Fall approaches, The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) faces several changes which present both incredible opportunity and difficult challenges for the organization. We excitedly look forward to the grand re-opening of Lake Union Park this September and the completion of the upgrades and stabilization of our docks and floats in Waterway Four at South Lake Union (SLU) over the winter months. The combination of more visitors to SLU and improved facilities to serve increasing public demand will strengthen CWB’s programs significantly in the years to come.

Despite these positive changes, CWB has some immediate hurdles it must overcome – the solutions to which present several short term pain points for the organization. First, CWB will lose about 8,000 square feet of program space in the Armory starting in December when all SLU staff members move back to the Boathouse in preparation for MOHAI’s arrival at Lake Union Park. We are actively seeking temporary offices and storage in the neighborhood to supplement our space needs until completion of the Education Center (expected in 2013.)

Second, and more disappointing, is the need to scale back our operations over the next 6 to 8 months to further adjust to the economic realities impacting businesses and non-profits across the country.  The trade-offs being implemented to balance the budget, described below, were all made with an eye toward optimizing the level of public service we provide to the community both in the short term and into the future.  These changes are not desired or optimal by any means, but are the best that we can do given the financial challenges we face moving into the off-season. The majority of the changes being made are on an interim basis — now through the end of March when our annual fundraising auction helps replenish necessary operating revenues. The final budget for the full 2011 year will be discussed and adopted by the board this Fall.

The most significant and painful decisions by far have been to scale back during the interim period on key staff roles, including the Assistant Boatwright and the Volunteer and Visitor Services Manager. The Lead Boatwright position will merge with the Livery Manager role facilitated by reduced livery hours. Martin Johansson, current Assistant Boatwright, while offered the position, has chosen instead to move on from CWB. For October through December, the position will be filled by Kyle Hunter, current Seasonal Livery Assistant, as he finishes up in the Marine Carpentry Program at Seattle Central Community College. This big change coincides with Heron Scott’s decision to accept a new position in Gig Harbor where he will be involved in large boat restoration projects once CWB’s Waterway 4 facilities project is complete.

On the Volunteer and Visitor Services Manager position, CWB will temporarily divide this role into other existing staff positions to ensure ongoing support of volunteers. This has been a particularly hard decision as most of you know first hand how Kim Iorio has filled that role capably and been an extremely strong champion for the remarkable volunteers at CWB. Kim leaves a legacy that will help carry CWB forward: strong systems, a model volunteer program, and a high quality visitor experience.  Erin Schiedler, CWB’s Communications Coordinator, is becoming the point person for volunteers during this interim period: meeting and orienting volunteers, continuing the volunteer newsletter and replying to queries sent to volunteer@cwb.org. While fewer volunteer orientations will be offered during this interim period, every staff member will share in ongoing stewardship of CWB’s volunteers, as volunteers continue to step into key roles, leading the organization in familiar areas such as front desk, livery, Boatshop, public sail and sail instruction, and auction planning. We will also be adding new volunteer roles in areas such as “the move”, and increased outreach and fundraising at both Cama and SLU.

In addition to the above mentioned changes, you will also see the following changes occurring in the interim period between now and March 2011:

  • No CWB regattas, including Norm Blanchard and Frostbite
  • SLU Livery hours will be weekends only, Oct – Mar, reflecting high demand times
  • Cama Beach Livery hours reduced during the same time frame, except for scheduled groups
  • Open hours at SLU during the weekday with a front desk presence will be reduced Oct- Mar. The schedule is TBD and will be based on availability of our front desk volunteers
  • Volunteer orientations going from monthly to every other month
  • Docks closing for a 1-2 week period to accommodate Waterway 4 construction, exact timing TBD
  • Staff moving to the library and administrative offices in the Boathouse starting Dec 2010
  • An increased focus on building CWB’s fundraising capacity and updating business plans to reach a more sustainable long-term business model

And here is what won’t be changing over the off-season window:

  • Free public rides on Sundays
  • SailNOW! and One-on-One at off-season levels
  • Youth field trips and Tugboat Storytime at SLU
  • Development and delivery of youth programs at Cama
  • Volunteer roles and responsibilities
  • 2011 program planning and marketing
  • Continued investment in vessel documentation and preservation
  • Another year with AmeriCorps members (starting October) – one based at SLU and one based at Cama

The end of the summer is always a difficult transition period for CWB as many of our seasonal staff and AmeriCorps volunteers complete their summer commitments.  This year is no different as Aislinn Palmer, Megan Langfitt, Felix Flanders, Matt Nesheim and Shane Bishop begin to phase out of their roles between August and October.  This Fall Megan Gilshire will also wrap up her two-year role leading CWB’s efforts on the Northlake Community Wharf project .  We will also be saying good-bye to staff who are choosing to follow new life directions: Erik Neumann, SLU livery manager (end of August) Heron Scott, Lead Boatwright (end of Waterway 4 project), and Patrick Gould, Boat Sales and Cama Livery (moving to Eastern Washington in September).

To adapt to these changes, roles of remaining staff members are also shifting.  Eldon Tam will step into Heron’s leadership role on planning CWB’s new Education Center in Lake Union Park; a new half-time bookkeeper will enable Alyssa Farber to shift about half her time to strategic planning and fundraising strategy; Edel O’Connor will add coordination of CWB’s new Visiting Vessel Program (created by departing Erik Neumann) to her role coordinating Visiting Vessels at the Wharf and Andrew Washburn’s role at Cama is expanding to cover more outreach and development.

We will continue to send reminders and updates as service levels shift and staff members hit key transitional dates.

Thank you for your continued interest and involvement in The Center for Wooden Boats and your help preserving CWB’s mission and programs for the future.

Betsy Davis
Executive Director
The Center for Wooden Boats

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