By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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The annual gathering, set this year from Friday through Sunday in Port Townsend, has evolved from a sleepy gathering of enthusiasts into a major economic, educational and entertainment event.
“The festival celebrates a centuries-old craft and how beautiful, elegant, historically significant and resilient it is,” said Joshua Berger, a captain on the historic schooner Adventuress, which will be on display.
“Most people can at least admire what the wooden craft is, the craftsmanship, the care and the beauty that it reveals,” Berger added.
The festival — set from 9 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday in Point Hudson on the northernmost tip of Port Townsend — offers more than boats.
A screening of “The Life of Pi,” vendors and special children’s activities also are planned.
“Even for non-boaters, it is visually a very stimulating environment with great food and great music,” said Carrie Andrews, who manages the festival with Barb Trailer.
Admission is $15 per day and $30 for the weekend, or $10 and $20 for students, seniors and military.
Organizers expect about 35,000 people and 250 boats.
“This is a great event,” Andrews said.
“The boats are beautiful and there aren’t too many places where you can get on 200 different boats.
“For $15, it’s a pretty full day of education and entertainment.”
Boats will fill the waters off Point Hudson, with owners offering invitations to come on board and check out the craftsmanship.
Andrews said there is something at the festival for every level of boater, from those who want to circumnavigate the globe to those who want to make seat cushions for a rowboat.
You can also make your own rowboat.
The Edensaw Boat challenge is in its second year and has so far attracted eight contestants, a significant increase from last year’s two, Trailer said.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Friday, contestants build a boat from scratch, with the projected launch at noon Sunday.
“We don’t have many rules, they can do anything they want as long as they don’t have anything pre-cut or built before hand,” Trailer said.
The festival has a strong historical element in which older boats are showcased.
The schooner Adventuress, in particular, celebrated its centennial last year and is planning a ceremony at 6:15 p.m. Saturday at City Dock where the vessel will be reunited with its original 1913 ship’s bell that was returned to Adventuress by a California collector.
This follows the schooner race from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. in which Adventuress is competing for the first time, according to Burger.
Other historical boats participating in this year’s festival are the tall ship Lady Washington and the Virginia V., a 125-foot 92-year-old steamship that operated as part of the Mosquito Fleet ferrying passengers around Puget Sound.
While the ability to go on the water can depend on location, timing and who you know, several organized opportunities are available on the Adventuress, the Lady Washington and the schooner Odyssey, ranging from $35 to $75 per passenger.
While clear weather in the low 70s is expected, rain is always a possibility but this won’t slow things down, according to Trailer.
“If it rains, a lot of people don’t come, but we actually have a lot to do indoors,” Trailer said.
This includes the presentation and, for the first time, a writers’ tent where many of the presenters who have written books will chat informally with festival attendees — and, of course, sell books.
While the real festival begins on Friday, there is an early bird special of sorts on Thursday, an all-day boating skills seminar featuring experienced cruisers Lin and Larry Pardey along with “accidental cruiser” Steve Callahan.
Pardey will talk about how to prepare for a long cruise while Callahan will talk about survival and his ordeal of being adrift for 76 days.
“He does the lecture circuit talking about his experience, using that as jumping off point for overcoming obstacles,” Andrews said.
Because of his experience, Callahan became the technical director for “The Life of Pi,” a 2013 movie that will be screened at 7 p.m. Friday in the Northwest Maritime Center.
Admission will be free with a festival wristband or a Port Townsend Film Festival membership card. It is $5 otherwise.
Lin Pardey, Callahan and author Wendy Hinman will lead a special maritime-themed PT Shorts reading at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Pope Marine Building.
Sponsored by Key City Public Theatre, the three authors will read from their travel books.
Many of the vendors sell boat specific tools and parts while new arrivals will sell more consumer-oriented gear such as boating-related clothing, according to Trailer.
New food vendors include a Guatemalan food stand and one that specializes in root beer floats, she said.
The YMCA is sponsoring a children’s art show in its booth directly across from the maritime center while the Port of Port Angeles, the Port Angeles Yacht Club and Platypus Marine Inc., will lend a Clallam County presence.
“Even for non boaters it is visually a very stimulating environment with great food and great music.” Andrews said.
The festival provides an economic boost to all Port Townsend merchants, she said.
“We bring in thousands and thousands of people and sell out every lodging establishment between here and Port Angeles,” she said.
“We are at the point where there are only so many people we can put up and so many boats we can put in the harbor, so we need to draw from people who want to come up just for the day.
“There is a limit as to how big we can get, based on our location.”
For more information go to http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Boatfest.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.