PORT TOWNSEND — On the deck of the schooner Adventuress, Capt. Katelinn Shaw held court.
Talking with students about steering, navigation and propulsion of the 133-foot ship, she created a floating classroom with amenities including brisk, salty air and kingfishers’ rattling calls — just another afternoon on this historic landmark of a boat.
Shaw and co-Capt. Nate Seward welcomed 18 students Friday from the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, 9 miles away in Port Hadlock. The boat school, as it’s known, has just expanded to open a satellite location at the Port Townsend Boat Haven, where Adventuress is docked this spring.
Before boarding the tall ship, the students embarked on a photo safari all over the boatyard, with marine systems instructor Kevin Ritz leading the way.
“What we’ve got going here,” Ritz said, “is this fantastic lab to walk around in. All these projects [at the Boat Haven] are the exact projects we’re trying to teach our students how to do.
“It makes it very real to them,” he said, adding he heard a lot of “wow, look at this” as the group roamed the waterfront.
Friday on Adventuress, the men and women practiced nautical knot-tying and then uprigged four of the ship’s burly spars. Afternoon brought an exploration of marine systems with Seward and Shaw, above and below.
Shaw discussed traditional navigation, adding that the 108-year-old Adventuress, owned by the nonprofit Sound Experience (soundexp.org), also runs modern equipment.
“Is that cheating?” was her rhetorical question.
Shaw said no. It would be irresponsible to get underway without backup equipment, especially with the students who voyage each year on this ship.
Shaw added she especially values radar. It can see through darkness and fog, two things she cannot do.
The Adventuress day was a close-by field trip for the boat-schoolers, whose base at the Boat Haven is the Nomura Building, adjacent to the Port of Port Townsend’s administration building.
The port was looking for a tenant, and the boat school fit right in, said port Executive Director Eron Berg.
The new site may also be used to offer presentations and “next door” training to people already working in the boatyard, allowing them to keep up with industry trends without having to leave town, added Betsy Davis, who helms the boat school.
This is a trial, Davis added, in keeping with the school’s ideals of cautious planning and step-by-step growth. She and her staff plan to evaluate whether the satellite location provides a stronger connection between students and those working in the marine trades here.
For Ritz, exploring the Boat Haven gives students closeups on the basic challenges of boat maintenance.
“I can talk for a week about corrosion, but the learning comes when students go out on a boat and actually do a corrosion survey,” he said.
Tyler Johnson, a mechanic, electrician and woodworker at the Shipwrights Co-op, is among recent boat school graduates to come to work the Boat Haven.
“I found my dream job,” working on both commercial and recreational boats, he said.
The boat school, which marks its 40th anniversary this year, is also adding to its main campus, having received $450,500 in grants earlier this year from two sources: the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Port Townsend Elks.
The federal award will go toward purchasing training equipment for students working in the new Marine Systems classroom, while the Elks grant helps fund the school’s new veterans’ resource center.
Vets make up 25 to 30 percent of the student body, Davis noted; they include Antonio Romero, the VetCorps Peer Navigator who works one-to-one as a fellow vet to call on for support.
To learn more about the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding and its 12- and 6-month diploma programs, see nwswb.edu and phone 360-385-4948.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]