I’m not sure where my fascination with wooden boats comes from…a most unlikely passion for a person raised on a land-locked farm in Central Texas for the first third of my life.
My first introduction to sailing came in an attempt to make the PE requirement at the University of Texas more palatable. Bobbing around on the Colorado River in a twelve foot Laser while the instructor screamed at me through a megaphone from a rowboat, it’s a wonder I ever set foot on a boat again. Particularly after my first “turtle” incident, at which time we were required to capsize the boat and right it again. It was at this point that I used my then waist-length hair as an excuse to drop the class, “I can’t go to my next class with wet haaaaiiir!”
Next came my former husband, better known as “Captain Bligh.” Scott owned a 17 ft Nacra catamaran, for which he refused to surrender the tiller…if he would allow me to tag along at all, that is. But he needed someone to back the trailer down the boat ramp while he sailed onto the trailer. So his only option was to teach me. More yelling.
Then came my beloved years with the True North Sailing Club in Manhattan, where I raced J-24 sailboats around the Hudson River, dodging the Staten Island Ferry, the NJ Waterway, and the QE2, as our race captain barked orders, “KEEP IT UP! GET OUT ON THE RAIL!! EYES FRONT AND CENTER! THIS AIN’T THE CIRCLE LINE!”
How did such a sport that is supposed to evoke peace and serenity from gliding across tranquil waters with only the sound of the occasional luff of the sail and lapping of the waves breed so much yelling? But I digress….
Through all the “ports of call” I have visited in my travels, nothing captivates me like a vessel under sail. In fact, were it not that that my solo navigation on water is so abysmal, I would have probably bought a sailboat instead of an RV.
I love boats. All boats. But nothing speaks to my romantic side like the mystery, fragility, and aura of timeless classicism of a wooden boat. To take something from the elements of nature like a giant cedar tree from the earth, hand craft it lovingly into a vessel to harness nature’s element of wind for the purpose of gliding upon nature’s element of water makes my heart sing a sweet siren’s song.
During my 2014 visit to Port Townsend, I learned of their annual Wooden Boat Festival. Judging by the size of the beautiful Northwest Maritime Center’s Wooden Boat Academy, I knew it had to be quite an event. I set my intentions to return for the festival at my next opportunity to point the RV toward the Pacific Northwest. So last December when I decided on my summer itinerary, I went online to do the research, only to learn I was about 3 months too late. You see, I not only wanted to be “at” the boat festival. I wanted to be “in” the boat festival.
Each September, the Northwest Maritime Center takes complete control of the Point Hudson Marina and RV Park. For three weekend days, this typically quiet RV Park at the end of town that overlooks the serene Strait of Juan de Fuca becomes the thriving heart of the festivities. With enough advance planning, it is possible to secure an RV full-hookup spot right there in the marina, thereby immersing oneself in the heart of the Wooden Boat Festival, the midst of the mayhem. For an RVing boat lover like me, this is a double shot of Nirvana!
But I didn’t plan far enough in advance. I later learned that spaces become reservable on October 1st of the preceding year, and sell out within hours. So I emailed to ask about a waitlist. I still remember exactly where I was standing when the phone rang last March while at the north boondocking site of Joshua Tree National Park when Catherine from the Northwest Marine Center called to say “I’ve got good news! You’ve cleared the waiting list! Space 318 is yours if you still want it.”
It’s been a year of obstacles, from mechanical potholes to physical hurdles to even an emotional stumble or two. On several occasions, the thought occurred to me to alter my course. Give up my plans. Something was “telling me” that the Pacific Northwest was not where I was meant o be this summer. But the one thing that kept me going was my hard-sought reservation for the boat festival. Thank goodness tenacity prevailed, as I don’t remember a public event when I’ve had more fun!