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New CWB/Northwest Seaport “Boatwright/Shipwright-in-Residence” a success

February 5, 2013

The first session of the new Center for Wooden Boats/Northwest Seaport “Boatwright/Shipwright-In-Residence” program has concluded, and both organizations are planning on how to keep the innovative program going. The joint program was kicked off in the fall of 2012 with Allen Fletcher and Christine Jacobsen, both recent grads of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock, coming to spend a 10-week residency at both organizations.

In exchange for a cabin, or berth on a historic tugboat and a small stipend, both budding boat builders got to work on the historic collections of The Center for Wooden Boats and Northwest Seaport. “The goal was to give new graduates that first on the job experience,” said Kyle Hunter, CWB’s Boatshop Manager. “If we can help those new grads gain experience and benefit from their fresh perspective from school, we both win.”

"This had all the components of our ideal program; living and working aboard our ships, pairing youth with experience, restoration through teaching, and close collaboration with our partner organizations,” said Nathaniel Howe, Nautical Archaeologist & Vessel Manager, Northwest Seaport. “It was great exactly what we were going for."

At Lake Union Park, Jacobson lived on the historic tug Arthur Foss, while working on a wide range of projects. Here’s her summary of her time as Boatwright-in-Residence at CWB (For more about her time as Shipwright in Residence on the Arthur Foss, check out the Northwest Seaport Blog)

Christine working on CWB and Northwest Seaport boats

Joe Green has one of the coolest jobs in Seattle and I got to work with him for 10 weeks as part of the Center for Wooden Boats’ Boatwright in Residence Program. Actually I spent 7 weeks at the Center and 3 weeks working on the Arthur Foss, a 124yr old wooden tug boat owned by Northwest Seaport. I also lived aboard the Foss for the duration. How many people can say they used to live on a wooden tug boat from the 19th century in the middle of one of the wealthiest Seattle neighborhoods? And daily went off to work using skills and doing work that has been done for centuries?

My days started with lying in bed wondering why winter is so cold, piling on as many clothes as I could and still hope to bend my limbs, and hopping on my bike to happily ride off to work. The main difference between the North Lake Shop and the Arctic is polar bears; fortunately this is the primary hurdle to enjoying working there and is somewhat overcome by layers and the occasional foray up the street for hot tea. The first several weeks of my time in the North Lake Union shop was spent working on the Colleen Wagner, an Egret Sharpie in need of a lot of love. I had the great good fortune to show up after most of the really hard work had already been done; I built a new daggerboard, fine-tuned a few things, and spent a couple days bent over in the most uncomfortable awkward position putting fiberglass in the bilge. Joe will claim he helped, but I’m going to go ahead and take most of the credit for the work done after I arrived. While the work didn’t involve a lot of the gentle scraping of hand planes on beautiful new planks or careful chiseling of intricate boat parts people often think of when the words ‘wooden boat shop’ are mentioned it was still interesting, challenging, and valuable for future employment prospects.

As a recent graduate of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock, I came to this position with a lot of skills but by no means knowing all there is to know about boat building and boat repair. Fortunately, as a graduate himself and a natural teacher, Joe knew about my skill level and was happy to show me new techniques, how to use tools I hadn’t used before, and challenge me while not throwing me in over my head along the way. Like any good manager Joe was also willing to listen and accepting of my ideas along the way, as a woman I am usually right and it is so nice to work with someone receptive to that notion. While I spent virtually no time in or around the office, an important aspect of any job in my opinion, it is apparent that Joe and the North Lake Shop are well supported by those who do spend their days there, most notably Kyle and his never-ending energy and enthusiasm for the job.

After the Colleen Wagner was finished being painted and waiting for launch work turned towards a Blanchard Junior Knockabout, Pamela. As an aside I asked all the volunteers I worked with on this boat if he liked the purple paint on the interior. Answers were usually a resounding ‘No’, with the occasional open-minded, forward thinking, not-boring individual saying he liked it. I for one think the purple is wonderful and should stay as one of the best features of Pamela. Pamela needed and still needs a lot of love, including a new stem to replace the rotten one she has now. Joe and I patterned out the profile of the old stem, removed enough planking up forward to see what was going on (those who think the purple now is a little wild should see the colors it’s covering up), and got to work creating a new stem. A few measurements and a trip to the lumber store later we were ready to mill up and laminate a new stem for Pamela. An afternoon that could have gone wrong in so many ways ended up in the smooth glue up of 36 individual laminations into a new stem that despite the best efforts of Joe and myself fit in all dimensions and looks terrific.

This brought me to the end of my time working as a Boatwright in Residence, but certainly not the end of my relationship with the Center for Wooden Boats. I have nothing but good words for the organization; it is a rare place that draws so many wonderful people in so many different capacities and keeps them coming back. This country girl wasn’t made for the city, but dreams of a job half as interesting and people half as wonderful somewhere out where driveways aren’t paved and nighttime is actually dark.


Leaders at CWB and Northwest Seaport are exploring how they can work together to make the new program a permanent fixture of their organizations, and hope to have an announcement about recruiting for the next round of Boatwright and Shipwright-Residents later this year.

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