PORT HADLOCK — A sign over the doorway proclaims the Community Boat Project mission and message.
“We’re gonna make it together,” it says, and those words aren’t just about physical construction.
The Community Boat Project, a job-training program aligned with the nearby Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, is branching out. To address what longtime director Wayne Chimenti calls the “big, big subject” of local affordable housing, interns and students here are building tiny houses.
Together with Bayside Housing & Services, the Boat Project last fall constructed the Golden Fig Cottage, one of the 12 shelters at Peter’s Place, a transitional housing village also in Port Hadlock.
Now Bayside and Chimenti plan two more tiny house villages for farmworkers in and around Chimacum.
“The partnership between the two comes naturally,” said Greer Gates, Bayside’s development director. Information about the nonprofit organization’s programs is found at bayside housing.org and 360-881-7140.
For Bayside and the Community Boat Project, the road ahead won’t be without its bumps, as locations for these villages aren’t easy to find. But with the fast realization of Peter’s Place, which came together in a matter of months, Chimenti and his students are eager to work.
This spring already has proven productive with the construction of what Shayna Wiseman joyfully calls her “gypsy wagon.” Wiseman, 39, came to the Boat Project with a vision of a tiny house like the ones she admired in western Europe.
“I’m a single woman, and I didn’t have any building skills,” she said. “Then I started volunteering here. They asked me if I wanted to be the next [tiny house] project.
“They made my dream come true,” in the form of a 96-square-foot cedar home. Inside are a comfortable bed, a black-walnut table, a sink, under-bed storage and a diminutive wood stove. Wiseman paid for all of the materials while friends volunteered to help her build it in the Boat Project shop.
“It’s really gorgeous,” Chimenti said of the house, which can easily be transported, via a truck’s trailer hitch, to a nearby farm.
Tiny homes such as this are a viable option for workers who couldn’t otherwise afford to live in this town, Chimenti believes.
Wiseman works with Cascade Connections, an organization providing disabled adults with job training and tools for independent living.
Another Community Boat Project builder, Joseph Dominguez, came to Jefferson County to work at Sunfield Farm. He moved up from California, wanting to learn hands-on about organic farming; he and his partner lived together in one tiny house.
“It felt really good to downsize, and get rid of the stuff we didn’t need in our lives. It was always a nice place to come back to and lay our heads,” said Dominguez, 27, who has since “upgraded, in a sense,” to a yurt in Port Townsend.
“Affordable housing is a main issue in keeping these people,” said Chimenti, who has lived in the county since 1985.
“Lose the Shaynas and lose an essential part of our community. The same with Joseph — lose the Josephs and lose the farmers. Who’s going to grow your groceries?”
While the Boat Project’s planned tiny-home villages are a bit fancier than the shelters at Peter’s Place, Chimenti praised that first village.
He recalled that Peter Bonyun of Port Townsend, along with a small group of fellow volunteers, decided in 2020 that they’d heard enough talk that “somebody’s got to do something” about the homeless problem.
Bonyun and crew started building the shelters, painting them in cheerful colors — and looking for a permanent site. They found it adjacent to the Community United Methodist Church, and worked with Bayside and the Olympic Community Action Programs to locate the village on Faith Way. Bonyun’s compatriot’s named Peter’s Place after him.
“That was a small miracle,” Chimenti said.
He looks forward to working on more of those with his Boat Project students. In the fall, Chimenti hopes, the project will restart its job skills program for high school-age workers.
“A lot of people choose simplicity,” he added. While one generation’s mind set was “We’ve got to have that 5,000-square-foot house, that’s not on [the younger people’s] radar.”
Whether it’s farm workers or people trying to regain their footing after being homeless, Chimenti, 64, believes in a new, tiny solution.
“What could be better,” he asked, “than to house our fellow brothers and sisters?”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]