PORT TOWNSEND — The smell of freshly cut wood and epoxy hung in the air at Point Hudson as boat builders began crafting their best seaworthy vessels.
The catch: They have only 2½ days to complete the task, starting Friday and ending at 1 p.m. today.
The sixth annual Edensaw Woods Boatbuilding Challenge at the Wooden Boat Festival attracted five teams this year, each building a different type of craft.
The contest is a small part of the 42nd annual festival, which began Friday and continues today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at and around the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St.
Tickets are $20 for a one-day pass, with discounts for seniors, students and active-duty military; children 12 and younger are admitted free. Northwest Maritime Center members are admitted free.
The end of Water Street and Jackson Street will be accessible only by foot. Bike racks are available at the entrance. No dogs are allowed, except for service animals.
Parking can be found at the Haines St. Park & Ride near Safeway. Shuttles will run throughout the festival for $1 for an all-day pass. Paid parking is available at Memorial Field with proceeds supporting Jefferson County Memorial Athletic Field through Jefferson County Parks & Recreation.
Edensaw’s Scott Jones explained the boat-building competition to several attendees who watched as craftsmen intensely worked on their projects.
“This isn’t a race,” Jones said. “It’s simple: build the best wooden boat that you can in 2½ days, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.”
The completed boat must float one team member and complete a short course at the Point Hudson marina. The vessel can be rowed, paddled or sailed.
Competitors are not allowed to pre-cut any of the pieces of the boat to their shape, Jones said.
“You can mill wood to thickness, like planking to three-eighths of an inch, but you can’t cut to a plank shape in advance. You can mill frame stock, but you can’t make it a frame. You can have stuff ready to become a transom, but you can’t show up with a transom.
“There are a few loopholes in the rules, you can pre-coat plywood, you can make templates and lay out the marks on the wood, but you just can’t cut until the competition starts.”
The competition gives the public a taste of what it takes to build a boat from scratch.
“This competition is going on because we want festival attendees to see the birth of these boats in real time, in front of them,” Jones said. “It’s an attainable goal. None of these people are professionals and do this for a living.
“We didn’t want to just give everyone the same kit. We wanted real boats that are long lasting, made with real techniques. It feels very Port Townsend, very Wooden Boat Festival in spirit. These aren’t junk. People put their hearts and souls into this competition.”
Jones said the exciting part of the competition is that everyone comes in with their own ideas and plans, all with equal difficulty.
“Team RLK & Maybe J is building a skinny catamaran, one-foot wide and 20-feet long; a team from the School of Wooden Boatbuilding is building a 10-foot Pram by Michael Kasten,” he said.
“Team Critical Path is building a Glen L Tubby Tug — a 9-foot-long tugboat —they pre-coated and stained their wood. Team Dorettes in their fifth year has came in second in the past. They are building a Carvel Planked Boat, which is really ambitious; and David Langley and Team Flounder has designed a fold-up boat.”
This year’s judges include Kiwi Ferris, owner of Edensaw Woods; Lief Knutsen, early member of the Port Townsend Shipwrights’ Co-op; and Dan Newland of Pegasus Arrow Marine.
Winners will receive gift certificates from Edensaw: $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third.
Judges will rate the boats on originality, design and seaworthiness, with other parameters kept to a minimum.
“We encourage original designs and construction techniques to achieve an excellent boat in a short amount of time,” Jones said.
“We want to see a boat come up from scratch. We want to see the craftsmanship in making not just a vessel that floats but the craftsmanship in creating the pieces that make up the boat, and everything that goes into it prior to assembly.
“We like to foster originality in design and give teams the option to build the best boat they can in a weekend.”
As the gluing and clamping was taking place Friday around 2:25 pm, a pod of orcas swam close to shore. Jones said he saw five, including a big male with a large dorsal fin and a smaller juvenile.
The crowd stopped to watch them take their time rounding Point Hudson and headed out towards Point Wilson. Many commented on the sight being a special sight to behold at the festival.
The craftsmen, cognizant of their deadline, kept building their boats.
For more information on the Wooden Boat Festival and a complete schedule, see www.woodenboat.org.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]