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A Boat Museum That Draws Painters….One In Particular

March 24, 2014

The Center for Wooden Boats draws boaters….as you would expect. But there’s something about the museum’s collection of historic boats lined up on the docks in the fading golden summer light or sailing in close formation during a lesson on Lake Union that has always drawn another crowd. The crowd that comes with easels, with oils and acrylics, pads of paper and charcoal. CWB is a magnet for artists.

“Artists have been coming down to CWB as long as it’s been in existence,” said Dick Wagner, the museum’s Founding Director. “They come to capture the sights of boats on the water, the light and the feeling that really says I’m in Seattle, and this is what it’s like here.”

Of all the artists inspired by the views at or near The Center for Wooden Boats there is one who comes back over and over: Bellevue’s Charles Fawcett.

Lake Union Lesson Sunday Sail

Fawcett’s love affair with boats goes back to his childhood. He was raised living on a Thames river sailing barge in his native England. He went to sea in the Merchant Marine at 16 and by 24 he had his unlimited Captain’s license. He rose to be a manager of a major shipping line, finally retiring in 2005. But since the mid-‘90s, Fawcett, among many things, has been painting – and images of the seas, boats, rocky shores that he might have once approached have been a constant theme in his work.

Another constant theme in his work is the boats and scenes around CWB. It’s hard to say how many of CWB’s boats Fawcett has painted, but the total is probably nearing two dozen, and growing. For Wagner, having so many of CWB’s boats captured in oils is an honor. “Charles’ paintings are bright and adventurous. He has a great vision of what’s happening on the boats and is able to capture the weather, the sense of movement and activity.”

Fawcett does many other kinds of paintings, but it is the quality in Fawcett’s maritime works that caught the editors’ eyes at 48oNorth, the Seattle area’s local sailing publication. Many of Fawcett’s paintings inspired by the boats around CWB have ended up as cover art on the magazine in the past decade. “We probably use three of Charles’ paintings as cover art every year,” said Karen Higginson Associate Editor of 48North. “His work captures the essence of sailing, particularly in the Northwest.” Famed Annapolis Yacht Racer, Olympian, Americas Cup winning tactician and ESPN Sailing Commentator Gary Jobson on receiving his copy of a recent 48North sent the editors a note saying how amazing Fawcett’s cover was.

So how does a retired captain and shipping line manager with a penchant for painting end up at CWB? As with most people, it has to do with people. More than a decade ago, Fawcett was racing Snipe sailboats at the Corinthian Yacht Club at Shilshole when he went up against Mindy Ross, CWB’s Sailing Education Manager. She suggested a fleet party at CWB and, once there, suggested Fawcett might like to instruct on some of the museum’s fleet of historic wooden boats.

“I felt that I would like to give something back and so started teaching and have loved it ever since,” said Fawcett. “Eleven years later, I’m maybe a bit slower but I feel the same enjoyment. CWB provides a sense of friendship and partnership.”

Fawcett doesn’t just volunteer at CWB on the water. He also lends a hand in the office, setting up bank deposits to make sure that the money from lessons or from cash donations gets into the correct piles and bundles.

Fawcett continues to be recognized for his paintings. Today some of them are on display at The Sixgill, the maritime pub and restaurant at 35th and Evanston in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood (in the building right across the street from the Rocket).

If you’re interested in seeing more of Charles’ work, you’ll find it online at But if you want to find Charles in the element he paints so often, sign up for a one-on-one lesson online at You’ll find Charles Fawcett among the instructors you can choose from. Unless he’s off again on his annual sailing charter somewhere warm, wet, and wonderful.

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