PORT TOWNSEND — Floral design is a skill not usually associated with sailing, but members of the Northwest Maritime Center’s team of high school students have become quite talented at creating colorful and eye-catching arrangements for their fundraiser at the annual Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.
The festival continues today and Sunday at the Northwest Maritime Center and Point Hudson Marina.
Work began months ago when the team started collecting glass jars to use as vases for the different sizes of bouquets they would sell: small ($10), medium ($15), large ($20) and extra large ($30).
Thursday morning the team met at the home of Sugar Flanagan and Leslie McNish where they began cutting dahlias in an astonishingly wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes from McNish’s garden. Fabled Flora in Port Townsend and Quilcene’s Lonely Pines Farm donated additional flowers for the project, and by noon, the team had completed about 60 arrangements composed of dahlias, zinnias, strawflowers, chrysanthemums, marigolds, pincushions and statice.
That evening, team members took orders from festival boats moored at Point Hudson and Friday morning they began deliveries starting at 6:30 and ending around an hour later. The beautiful bouquets were not a tough sell.
“Most of the people on the boats know us,” said senior Ocean Smith. “Very few people turn us down.”
Kenn Atkinson had chosen a small bouquet of orange, pink and purple dahlias that fit perfectly into one of the vessel’s drink holders.
“I bought them last night when I saw them talking to people,” said Atkinson, who was participating in the festival for the first time with his 22-foot boat River Dog out of Willamina, Ore. The students selling flowers was a nice touch, he said, for an event that was “outstanding” in terms of its being well-organized and welcoming.
While Smith had grown up with boats, senior Panya Cao, 18, said she came from what she laughingly called, “the opposite of a boat family.” But she fell in love with the sport when she began sailing about six years ago and is now the team’s treasurer. She was in charge or organizing the flower sale.
“We don’t really have a goal in mind,” Cao said in terms of fundraising. “We’re putting everything together and hoping for the best.”
The flower sale started around 2015, said Flanagan and McNish, whose daughters Alyce and Darby Flanagan were on the sailing team. Sugar, then Alyce and now Darby all coached the team. McNish took care of the gardening.
“If you were a mom on the sailing team, you were going to grow flowers,” McNish said.
The Northwest Maritime Center has supported the high school traveling and development teams since 2015. It owns the Flying Junior (FJ), 420 and laser dinghies the team sails.
Travel is far-flung, said Alyce Flanagan, who coached the team from fall 2019 to spring 2023. Port Townsend competes against high schools from around western Washington such as Anacortes, Bainbridge Island, Bellingham, Oak Harbor, Port Angeles and Seattle and all the way down to Oregon.
The funds raised by the flower sale and a raffle at the boat festival help students with such travel expenses as gas, ferry fares and accommodations, Alyce Flanagan said.
Charlotte “Charley” Capel said that one of the best parts of being on the team was the camaraderie that had developed among the teammates, more than half of whom are seniors.
“This is a really great group of people,” Capel said. “We’ve been together a long time.”
It also means that in addition to competing, the team will be focusing on recruiting. Many if not most of the recruits will come through the Northwest Maritime Center’s youth maritime summer program, where a number of the sailing team are instructors.
Alyce Flanagan said that one of the benefits of sailing was the doors it opened for students.
“There are all sorts of avenues you can pursue after high school,” she said. “A lot of colleges have sailing teams, like Washington and Washington State. It also connects you to people in the maritime industry for careers like sail making, rigging and coaching.”
Team members said it was the mental and physical demands of sailing that made it fun and challenging — and every competition different.
“It’s like playing a game of chess on water, but the board is moving all the time,” Capel said.
It also took a lot of shoulder, arm and abdominal strength, not to mention putting up with pain and discomfort.
“Some people think that all you do lie there in the dinghy,” said senior Ava Butterfield. “But it’s not like that at all. We get bruises up and down our shins.”
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@soundpublishing.com