I spread out the three day seminar program from the Wooden Boat Festival to plan my weekend with low expectations. Not being exactly skilled in working with my hands, I didn’t have much interest in learning laminating techniques or tying thump mats, though some of the tech sessions like Maintenance of a Diesel Engine could have transferred over to RVing. Still, I anticipated that most of my time at the festival would be spent outdoors, going from boat to boatAnd there were plenty of them, from the smallest dinghy to Jack Sparrow’s famous 67’ pirate ship.
But once I began reading the biographies of some of the speakers, my paradigm became a lot less “wooden.” The list contained authors, poets, photographers and story tellers. Adventurers and explorers, all eager to tell their tales of life on the water in a wooden boat. The “Who’s Who” list had a plethora of expertise, from cruising consultants for West Marine to a PBS featured couple who sailed around the globe in a 24’ wooden boat with no engine! All of a sudden, I had a renewed interest and a three day commitment.
The bonus of keeping to a one hour seminar is one must speak at a higher layman’s level. Photography tips become gentrified for the iphone audience all the way to the DSLR expert. Complicated navigation gets simplified in terms of favorite apps like Navionics, TideTrac, SailFlow and ShipFinder. And book authors must boil down to the essence of what inspired them to write the book. No long, dry presentations on charts or systems. The cream of the crop with the cream on top. The essence of the perfume. The distillation of “spirits” that make up the love and lore of sailing.
There are presentations on “The Unstoppable Boat”; how to keep your boat moving when all those fancy tech systems have failed. How to outfit your boat for blue water cruising (overnight passage without sight of land.) Even the NPS was represented in the presentation, “Find your Park – in a Wooden Boat,” tales of navigating the rivers of our National Parks, most notably the Colorado in the Grand Canyon in a replica of “Portola,” the wooden dory belonging to Martin Litton. Litton was a lifelong environmental activist and friend of Edward Abbey, who together lead the opposition to the Glen Canyon Dam, as well as proposed dams in the Grand Canyon.
One presenter compared the wooden boat industry to be “the last remnants of the golden age of sail.” In today’s fast moving culture and instant gratification and “bigger is better” mentality, wooden boat building is a dying art. It’s only those with a passion for the feel, touch, sound and smell of a wooden boat that are intent on keeping the art alive. Many of these presenters have not only sailed wooden boats around the world, they have designed them, picked out the wood, built them by hand, and circumnavigated, calling them “home” for years. For these enthusiasts, sailing around the world is not as much about the palm fringed beaches as it is sailing out on the sea. “The ocean is the destination….the boat is the paradise.”
For three straight days, there was no lack of entertainment. Up with the sun to grab “people-less” photos. Back to back seminars with lunch on the run. And evening entertainment from movie documentaries on wooden boatbuilding, to “Fisherpoets,” readings of poetry and tales from the sea, followed by a nightcap at the Wee Nip Merchant Saloon, located 50 ft from my Winnie door. It was an exhausting festival, and I’m not sure my feet touched the ground the entire three days!