PORT TOWNSEND — Which came first, the rowers or the boats?
In the case of the Rat Island Rowing Club, it was a wooden racing shell called the “Quinault.”
“It attracted attention and got friends together who started rowing,” said Steve Chapin, a local shipwright who started the club in 1998 with a friend, Ole Kanestrom.
From that beginning, the club has grown to 90 members and 11 boats, all donated by other rowing clubs.
Named for an island at the mouth of Marrowstone’s Kilisut Harbor, the Rat Island Rowing Club is one of the few rowing aggregations in the country that collect and restore wooden racing shells.
“These are museum pieces, but nobody wants them,” said Ted Shoulberg, a club member.
Shoulberg, a former Port Townsend City Council member, was instrumental in the club receiving its two newest acquisitions, once the fastest boats of their day.
One is a 41-foot shell, now named the “Hoh,” that won the gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics.
The other is the “Husky Challenger,” an eight-oared University of Washington boat that dominated international racing in the 1940, according to John Tytus of the Lake Washington Rowing Club.
————–The rest of this story appears in the Monday Peninsula Daily News Jefferson County edition. Click on SUBSCRIBE to get the PDN delivered to your home or office.