WEEKEND — Updated with VIDEO — Wooden boats sail into Port Townsend for festival under sunny skies

This story is accompanied by two videos:

1. Multimedia journaist Nina Jurczynski talks to Jake Beattie, director of the Wooden Boat Foundation about his experiences on tall ships and this weekend’s 2011 Wooden Boat Festival — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbY64BoRGE4.

2. Jurczynski chats with Kaci Cronkhite, Wooden Boat Festival director, about the Wooden Boat Festival — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVNkrdvtLRY.

PORT TOWNSEND — The director of the 35th Wooden Boat Festival, which begins today, predicts record-breaking crowds for the annual three-day gathering.

“I can’t remember any festival where the weather was as good as it will be this year,” said Kaci Cronkhite, who is at the helm of the festival for the 10th time.

“With two ferries [the MV Chetzemoka and the MV Salish] and the [Hood Canal] bridge, I think that we will have as many people here as the roads can handle,” she said.

Last year’s festival drew 30,000 people; Cronkhite expects more this year.

About 224 boats, 69 of them new to the festival, began trickling in Thursday, backing into the Port Hudson Marina.

By this afternoon, the marina is expected to be filled with boats, requiring a coordinated effort for them to get in and out of the harbor.

The festival is the primary fundraiser for the Northwest Maritime Center and Wooden Boat Foundation and its educational programs at the maritime center and is expected to raise about $100,000 for that cause.

Cronkhite said two types of people attend the festival: those who own boats or are in the boating trades, and those who want to experience the atmosphere.

“Those who know boats can appreciate the design and the craftsmanship of the boats here,” she said.

“Those who don’t know much about boats can just admire their beauty.”

There is an educational element to the festival that offers a steady program of seminars about all aspects of boating,

It includes 125 presentations including woodworking; boat yard, boat building and sail and rigging demonstrations; cruises; small open boat voyages; and seminars on tool care and use, seamanship and restoration.

Most are included in the admission price, which ranges from $10 for a single day for foundation members to $30 for a three-day ticket for nonmembers.

Aside from the scheduled seminars, the festival serves as a meeting place where attendees share information, tips and tricks about boating in an informal way, Cronkhite said.

It differs from a trade show, she said, because of the noncommercial flavor of the gathering, but business contacts are made, and many affiliations result from contacts initiated at the festival.

“For many companies, this is the biggest marketing weekend of the year, but there is no hard sell,” Cronkhite said.

Cronkhite, who turns 50 just after the festival, feels she could stay in this job for another 10 years.

“This event is never boring,” she said.

“It keeps me connected to hundreds of people worldwide who are interested in wooden boat subjects.”

And there is nothing better to her than when all the boats are in the marina.

“It’s a beautiful sight, like a little spot of heaven,” she said.


Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.


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