Now within striking distance of Port Townsend, my “pinnacle of summer,” I needed a place to hole up for the Labor Day weekend before I and a few thousand of my like-minded friends descend upon the small town for the 40th Annual Wooden Boat Festival. The Evergreen SKP park in Chimacum, Washington seemed like a convenient place to ride out the holiday weekend, particularly with their $5 per night dry camping lot.
I didn’t care much for the SKP park at first glance. It seemed like a giant football field with RVs lined up at each yard line, surrounded by four stadium walls of evergreen. And enough card shuffling and domino clacking in the clubhouse to make me feel like a game of “which one is not like the others?” But little by little, it grew on me as I discovered a few nearby gems….like the Tamanowas Rock Sanctuary within walking distance with hiking trails leading into the Anderson Lake State Park next door.
I had no idea when I set the GPS for Chimacum that it was less than 10 miles from Port Townsend. Although my reservation for the Wooden Boat Festival doesn’t start for another week, I couldn’t resist the urge to “cheat” and sneak into town on a day trip for a preview. I’m glad I did, as the energy leading up to the festival was palpable, as shops and vendors prepared for their biggest event of the year. The welcome mat was out with boat-themed window displays, commemorative tee shirts hot off the press, and even free tours of the harbor the 26-foot motor launch, the Martha J.
Of all the places I have visited since I started my full time nomadic life, none has touched me like Port Townsend. It’s the only town where it took me THREE blog posts to adequately describe my love affair when I was here in 2014. I set my intentions to return as soon as possible, and next time, to stay awhile. But above all else, I would time my visit to coincide with the Wooden Boat Festival in September.
Port Townsend is a memory that has improved with age, so I was quite intrigued to visit again two years later to see if the bloom was off the rose yet. As I neared the roundabouts leading into town, I had my answer as my pulse quickened at the sight of familiar landmarks. First the Coupville Ferry. Then the Victorian architecture of the historic downtown area. By the time I got to the end of Water Street, I was downright giddy with delight that my love had not waned.
Port Townsend aside (I’ll spend more time there after the holiday,) my favorite “find” in the Chimacum area was the tiny hamlet of Port Hadlock, just three miles down the road. While searching online to find walking trails near Chimacum, I stumbled upon a website of local events. A “First Friday” tour of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building caught my eye. Founded in 1981 by a group of boat builders, this school of wooden boat building occupies six acres along the waterfront, including buildings dating back to 1891. ‘
The school’s mission is “to teach and preserve traditional and contemporary wooden boatbuilding skills while developing the individual as a craftsman.” They use the apprentice approach with both classroom teaching and hands-on projects that include everything from restoration to interiors, or building from “lofting to launch.” But the most preferred projects are those commissioned by owners, as a symbiotic relationship develops between the owners and students as the project evolves.
The “first Friday: of each month, they open up their school for hour-long tours at 3:30pm. My tour included former alumni, their family and friends, prospective students, and a few gawkers like me. I have to confess, I went only to get up close and personal with the wooden boats, but I left wishing I were 40 years younger, preparing for a career as a shipwright!