PORT TOWNSEND — More than 200 wooden vessels, 120 presentations, 91 vendors and 21 bands are expected at Point Hudson Marina today through Sunday for the 41st Wooden Boat Festival.
Then, there are the unexpected festivalgoers.
Every year, something or someone unexpected comes to the wooden boat affair and gives more wind to its sails.
Northwest Maritime Center Executive Director Jake Beattie recalled last year’s unexpected visitors. Fire dancers showed up one evening and gave an impromptu performance, he said.
Another year, a man rigged a shoddy watercraft out of driftwood and palettes and cast it as an “unofficial entry” in the wooden boat exhibit.
Beattie said he recently learned the festival’s annual beer garden formed out of similar ingenuity.
It was a hot day in 1986, he said, and naturally, the festival’s volunteers decided they needed beer.
So, they rowed to the boathouse, snatched bags of ice, then rowed toward land in the direction of Safeway and filled a shopping cart with six-packs of Rainier beer.
They returned from their sojourn to Safeway with a boatload of ice-cold cans and sold them for $1 apiece, Beattie said.
Although this year’s festival will feature pop-up bars on land rather than rowboat, the same “grass-roots” spirit remains, he said.
“I joke that even if we canceled the festival, it would still happen,” Beattie said. “There’s just such a muscle memory in the community. Boats would show up. People would volunteer. There’s this wild momentum.”
The 41st festival runs today and Saturday from 9 a.m. to midnight and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at 431 Water St.
A few attractions include free 30-minute paddleboard and rowboat rides; tall ships Pacific Swift, Pacific Grace, Spike Africa, Suva, Zodiac, Providence and Adventuress joining hometown favorites Martha J and the Alcyone; the fifth Edensaw Boatbuilding Challenge; six maritime author signings; a who’s who of wooden boat experts; and Kids’ Cove activities.
Music and dancing, plus a bounty of food and drink, will be available all weekend.
Tickets cost $20 for a one-day pass or $40 for access today through Sunday, with discounted tickets available for seniors, students and active-duty military; children enter free. You can purchase tickets at nwmaritime.org/wooden-boat-festival.