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Festival countdown – Three weeks to go!

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New Year’s Update

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The Herreshoff Pram from instructor Leigh O’Connor’s class splashed! Congrats!

“My students just finished up this Herreshoff pram last week. We launched it yesterday and had a nice day on the water. This is just one of four boats my class will be completing over a six month period.” – Leigh O’ Connor

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WoodenBoat Magazine Highlights Prothero Method

Check out the article written by Chief Instructor Sean Koomen and Instructor Emeritus Jeff Hammond on the Prothero Method in the March/April 2016 WoodenBoat Magazine.



Boatbuilder Bob Prothero, founder of Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, championed an efficient method of boatbuilding that relied on extreme accuracy in the lofting. One element of this method—and a signature method in West Coast boatbuilding—is the bending of frames to the outsides, rather than the insides, of the ribbands, as on this 36′ Carl Chamberlain-designed motorsailer…. ~Sean Koomen, “Efficiency, Accuracy, and Integrity: The elements of the Prothero method,” WoodenBoat No. 249 March/April 2016

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Week 13: What’s a little rain when you have boats to build?

Never underestimate the powers of human observation.  Just don’t expect immediate leaps to scientific discovery based upon this particular skill. Case in point,  Port Townsend seemingly loses half of its population come late October winter winds. Given the option of staying in place to sit out short days or soak up some guaranteed liquid sunshine, the “snowbirds” head south to, oh say, Tucson or San Diego. This makes for quick grocery shopping and short lines at the gas station for those “year-rounders”.


That said, there is a flip side to this annual exodus. About the time the “snowbirds” feel compelled to migrate, their boats come out of the water for maintenance. Boat Haven, Port Townsend’s expansive shipyard, fills up with interesting projects in various stages of completion. However, these fish out of water projects share a common completion date.  The stranded vessels must be back afloat by mid-April, when owners return to once again ply the waters of our great “Northwest.”


Port Townsend Boat Haven Copyright:Joel Rogers /

So here’s where the powers of observation kick in. Why does the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding graduate a class in September?

Because that is when the shipyards get busy.

In other words, the would-be boatbuilder needs a hearty soul or lots of warm clothes. There’s not too many heaters or sheltered work areas in Boat Haven, but I bet the crews in Maine would change places in a heartbeat. After all, 40 degrees and drizzle is still preferable to 15 degrees and 40 inches of snow. With that I leap ahead in our educational experiences.


Having settled into our new division of specialization, the Class of 2016 is learning the fine art of planking and butt blocks. Don’t scoff, there is an art to butt block manufacturing as Jedi master Sean Koomen took great pains to explain over the course of a two-hour lecture. I now know more about joining two planks on a hull than I ever thought necessary.


Tricky stuff this wooden boatbuilding.


Thinking of tricky, you may recall we endured a month of drafting and lofting. Here’s a place where copious note-taking would be useful. Alas, only hindsight is 20-20.

Students in both the small and large craft classes are now confronting the challenge of translating vague instructions or faded blueprints into full-sized sketches worthy of three-dimensional reconstruction. The micro-artists in small craft are trying to translate Jedi master Ray Speck’s layout for a sailing skiff, while we large-craft knuckle-draggers are working through the intricacies of a Nordic Folkboat…or at least a lofted version thereof.

In both cases, would-be lofters are confronting the quirky tendencies of their wooden boatbuilding predecessors. Having constructed 30 or 40 of his sailing skiff, Ray apparently felt too many instructions for future lofters was overkill. On the other hand, the Folkboat lofters have plenty of paper to work from, but its all in metric. Who works in metric measurements? All my measuring tools are marked in good old-fashioned inches. Now I understand why Jody Boyle, another Jedi master, spends a lot of the day quietly shaking his head and trying to impart some of the less arcane lessons of wooden boatbuilding—like, oh, say, replanking a 70 year-old sailboat—a.k.a, FELICITY ANN.


Collage 2


Meanwhile, back down the hill, Jedi master Bruce Blatchley and his collection of contemporary students are engaged in the Handy Billy and that damn submarine. As it turns out, the sub is not just going to be a collection of fiberglass and ballast tanks.Tthe mold, thoughtfully provided by students at the University of Washington, is to be planked and then glassed. A fancy way of saying some of the contemporary students spent a lot of time turning large planks into long strips about 1 inch in diameter. Their shop will be aromatic with fresh cut Alaskan Yellow Cedar until someone starts the epoxy process.

Finally, noting things that float (the submarine being neither 100% above or below) another skiff has now been splashed despite the rain and lack of sunshine. Jedi master Olivier Huin led his crew to the Pacific at the close of our 13th week. With my humble human observation, that drift boat sitting aside the 36′ Chamberlin SEA BEAST is looking like a mighty close next candidate. But that’s a story for next week.


eri profile

Eric Anderson is a retired Air Force officer who can be found puttering
in his shop when not scribbling on the keyboard.  A new resident of
Port Townsend, he is an avid sailor, struggling carpenter, and would-be writer.


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Week 12: We’re Back!

Memory is a fleeting thing—and very selective. We tend to recall that which appeases the soul, while casting aside unpleasant recollections. Many a school teacher has learned this lesson the hard way. Give your students a two week holiday break and most will have forgotten how to add, subtract, multiply or divide…to say nothing of reading or writing. Now imagine you are tasked with teaching a motely lot to construct wooden boats.

I can safely claim my two week sojourn did not impinge upon an ability to distinguish stem from stern…or was that bow from transom? Nevermind recalling the tricks to laying out planking or driving rivets through a lapstrake so as to properly affix the rove. And there was all that class time committed to drafting and lofting. Maybe I should have taken better notes during our first quarter? Some of the Jedi masters apparently believe we should actually be learning this stuff for future applications, imagine that?

So off I go to do some remedial reading. Right now my rocking chair favorite is Bud McIntosh’s 1987 classic, How to Build a Wooden Boat. Bud, thoughtfully, for those of us who cannot absorb everything through reading, includes a lot of sketches and diagrams. About the time I despair at memorizing the latest nautical terms, he puts a reader at easy by illustrating the point in black and white drawings. A recommended book for those of you afflicted with the desire to build a wooden boat. (Hint, keep the text hidden from your significant other…or they will be on to your madness.)

Fortunately, we are not cast adrift. Chief Instructor Sean Koomen is back in front of the classroom each morning doing his best to impart the wisdom necessary for planking boats that should float (as opposed to acting as expensive seawater sieves). It seems we have a lot more to learn about selecting timber, discerning an aesthetic line, and then milling materials suitable for sailing the ocean blue.

Oh, for those of you still reading, I did use the word “aesthetic” in the paragraph above. Turns out we are not just learning to build practical crafts suitable for hauling Dungeness crab to shore. There is an expectation our wooden boats will be pleasing to a bi-standers eye. Talk about pressure. Framing houses was never this demanding. cartoon_crab_thumb
Thinking of framing, a few housekeeping chores needed to be accomplished before plunging back into a quarter of sawdust and endless measuring. Swing by the Hammond Building and you’ll spy the Jedi master Ben Kahn who’s been tasked with keeping us large craft knuckle-draggers in line. Needing some temporary additional work space, a handful of us guilty of working in the construction trade had an opportunity to build a new shelter measuring 32′ x 15′ before plunging back into the 36′ Chamberlin a.k.a. SEA BEAST. More space to plane planking!



week 12 2
The HANDY BILLY, a 21′ motor launch under construction in the Contemporary class


How go things elsewhere? The epoxy artists—I should say the contemporary students—are now chasing completion of a Handy Billy and have been set loose on a submarine.


Yes, you read that correctly, a submarine.


The University of Washington actually participates in a manually-powered submarine race that occurs just outside Washington DC every year. (I am not kidding. This is no ploy to get your date to join you on a romantic bluff for sub races just after sunset. These students really climb in and steer these things in a giant swimming pool the US Navy uses for testing hull designs.) I can see the new motto now…..


The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding: Constructing things that float and occasionally intended to sink.


week 12-3
Students discuss construction of the Whitehall they are building.

Meanwhile, in the small craft group, we have a collection of classic hulls coming to fruition. The Whitehall construction process is in full-court press (see the blog post from Week 9). Templates are being made, timber milled, and molds are taking form. Brave lot these small craft people—half of them work in the unheated Rubb Shelter. Makes even me, someone who wears shorts year-around, consider long underwear and bib-overalls. Their counterparts in the Westrem building have heat, but you should see the list of tasks awaiting attention in that relative comfort. My bet is that Olivier Huin, our French Jedi master, has his hands full.

One final concern to address before heading off to my shop is the fate of our five skiffs and a drift. One of the skiffs splashed at the end of our first quarter—hats off to Sean Koomen’s team. The remainder are projects underway. So tucked aside a submarine mold, classic Whitehalls, and the lumber beasts of large craft are the boats we have yet to complete. Maybe I should have passed on that holiday break.

eri profile


Eric Anderson is a retired Air Force officer who can be found puttering in his
shop when not scribbling on the keyboard.  A new resident of Port Townsend,
he is an avid sailor, struggling carpenter, and would-be writer.


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Marking 35 Years of Teaching


January 2016 marks the 35th year of the Boat School!

To commemorate this milestone we journey back to November 1982 when the Boat School campus was located at the Port Townsend Boat Haven and the first student built boat was launched.

The Charity Ann was a 28-foot working tug built on commission and was a replica of one used for many years by the owner’s family. It took a year and a half to complete and was built of fir, iron bark, red cedar, and redwood.


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Russell Bates takes the Grandy on its sea trials!

Student Russell Bates is shown in this video taking the 2014 Grandy out on its sea trials. Russell said he was pulling as hard as he could to test the oars and the boat’s performance. You can see the energy he was putting into it!

This is a beautiful boat that was completed in Instructor Jeff Hammond’s 2014 Traditional Small Craft Program. Nice work, students!

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Planking the Batela!

The Batela is a traditional Venetian boat, that is, developed in the Italian city of Venice. It is a flat-bottomed boat with a slight degree of rocker (meaning, the bottom is curved from bow to stern) to make it easier to row and control. Rowed standing up, it is essentially a cargo carrier or ferry.

The Traditional Small Craft class of 2014 under the direction of Master Instructor Jeff Hammond will build the boat.

The batela is approximately 30 feet long, and will be built largely of western red cedar over sawn frames.

This is an extremely interesting commission in that the boat was developed using design input provided by the owner in the form of sketches and commentary accompanied by video of Venetian batelae. Jeff drew the boat using that data, and refined it based on additional commentary and guidance to meet the owner’s direction.

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Scraping after lifting off the mold

Students Jessiah Worley, Chris Lindstam, and Alan Fenwick scrape epoxy off the interior seams of a boat that has recently been lifted off its mold.

The Lake Oswego boat is a wherry developed in Oregon by a Finnish boatbuilder for use on Lake Oswego. Two original boats are known, both maintained by The Center For Wooden Boats in Seattle WA.

The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding will build the boat during the 2014 Contemporary class of cold-molded construction. Instructor Jesse Long will lead students in building the boat using plans developed by CWB in the early 1908’s.

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Lake Oswego Boat off the mold

This Lake Oswego boat was built onto a mold constructed of thin “bead and cove” wood strips. The mold looks like an actual hull, but it really is just the form the actual boat is built onto. Strips of wood veneer are carefully measured and placed onto the mold and edge glued to each other to create the hull. The mold is waxed before the veneers are placed so that once the edge glue dries the hull can be easily removed from the mold. Shown are Instructor Jesse Long with students Chris Lindstam, Galen Brake, Jessiah Worley, Drew Larson, Lafayette Duvall. Nice work!

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Turning the Drascombe Longboat

Instructor Bruce Blatchley’s class turns their Drascombe Longboat. Students are Rw Barrett, Eric Kay, John Sandoval and Chuck Garrett. Nice work guys!

This boat is being built for a youth boating program led by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Baja, Mexico. They currently have a fiberglass fleet of Drascombes. This wooden one should be lighter, stiffer and more durable.

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Sea Trials for the Light McKenzie River Boat!

The Light McKenzie River Boat, as it is traditionally known, is described in detail in Roger Fletcher’s book “Drift Boats and River Dories”, published by Stackpole Books in 2007. The book’s ISBN is 0-8117-0234-0 . Roger Flectcher’s website is .

The McKenzie river flows west out of the Cascades Mountains in central Oregon and terminates north of Eugene Oregon when it joins the Willamette River.

The Light McKenzie River boat is thought to have been first developed in the 1920’s by Veltie Pruitt for use on the McKenzie River.

This boat was built at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding by students in the Class of 2014 working under the direction of instructor Ben Kahn. It was built largely of Alaska Yellow Cedar. The oars are spruce.

It’s seen here on sea trials March 5th, 2014, demonstrating its manueverability during sea trials.

The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding is located in Port Hadlock WA and is an accredited, non-profit vocational school. You can find us on the web at .

Our mission is to teach and preserve the fine art of wooden boatbuilding and traditional maritime crafts.

We build both commissioned and speculative boats while teaching adult students the traditional wood and wood composite boatbuilding skills they will need to work in the marine trades. We sell our boats to help support the School. Please feel free to give us a call should you like to discuss our building a boat for you.

You can reach us via e-mail at [email protected] or by calling us at 360-385-4948.

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Working on the BBC Whitehall (Chopping off bungs)

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) asked the Boat School to build three traditionally-built Whitehalls as replicas of the boats used by John Wesley Powell and his group of explorers during their first-ever descent of the Colorado River in 1869. The BBC will film a reenactment of the voyage later in 2013.

The School is building one 16-foot Whitehall, the “Scout Boat”, and two 21-foot Whitehalls. Though Powell launched four Whitehalls onto the river in 1869, one, the 21-foot “No Name”, was lost to the river shortly after the descent began.

The white oak from which the boats are constructed was supplied by Newport Nautical Timbers . The 16-foot boat will be planked in larch from eastern Washington, which is as close as it is possible to come to the original white pine planking used on that boat.

Whitehalls are the iconic American pulling boat.

They emerged in New York City and, possibly, shortly thereafter in Boston in the 1830’s. It is thought the name derives from Whitehall Street in New York City, though no one is sure. By the mid-19th century, they could be found anywhere there was a sizeable body of water – the East Coast, the Great Lakes, and the Pacific Coast at San Francisco all boasted boatbuilders turning out Whitehalls.

The boats were usually used under oars and occasionally sail as fast harbor ferries and the boat used to take harbor pilots out to meet inbound sailing ships. They have a fine reputation as fast, easy-rowing vessels that are capable of carrying a great deal of weight.

Nearly all Whitehalls were carvel-built with white cedar planking on an oak backbone with oak frames. (Carvel planking means that the planks butted up against each other, edge to edge, which results in a smooth hull). The finer boats were highlighted with a bright sheer plank (the top plank) varnished to catch one’s eye.

There is surprisingly little known about the boats used by the 1869 Powell Expedition, the first to descend the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. We do know that the Powell Expedition boats were built in Chicago IL to Powell’s specifications.

It’s known that the “Scout Boat” as Powell called it was 16 feet long and planked in white pine, that the remaining boats were 21 feet long and planked in white oak with twice the number of frames and doubled stems and stern posts.

There are no complete descriptions of the boats themselves, no pictures, and only a few scattered references made to the boats in the surviving journals and records of the Expedition.

The three boats we are building for the BBC are being constructed to the best information available, using the general scantlings provided by John Gardner’s historical work, extent plans, our significant experience in building Whitehalls over our 32 years, and the historical data available to us.

The boats will be completed by mid-July, 2013.

The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding is located in Port Hadlock WA and is an accredited, non-profit vocational school. You can find us on the web at .

Our mission is to teach and preserve the fine art of wooden boatbuilding and traditional maritime crafts.

We build both commissioned and speculative boats for sale while teaching students boatbuilding the skills they need to work in the marine trades. If you’re interested in our building a boat for you, please feel free to give us a call.

You can reach us via e-mail at [email protected] or by calling us at 360-385-4948.

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Sid Skiff on the water!

This 13′ Sid Skiff was built by the 2011-12 and 2012-13 Traditional Small Craft students. A dream to sail and row, this boat is extremely fun and maneuverable – perfect boat for beginners and expert sailors. Built of cedar on oak frames, she is light and strong. (This particular boat has sold.)

“I’ll Calm the Ocean” by Morgan O’Kane.

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2013 Wooden Boat Projects

Every year at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding we build an exciting lineup of boats for either commission or for spec. This year our students have been building the:

Hanson Forest Service Boat
H.C. Hanson-designed Forest Service Boat

Hanson Forest Service Scaler Boat

Instructor: Ben Kahn

Photo Gallery

Commission Posting

This boat was designed by the American designer H.C. Hanson in 1957 for the US Forest Service as a Scaler’s Boat. Scalers determine the amount of board feet of lumber in each log cut by a timber crew. Three of these vessels were built commercially in the mid-1950’s to this design for the Forest Service for use in the western United States.

Under the direction of Instructor Ben Kahn, students at the School will continue construction on this boat during 2014.

The boat is 28 feet long with a beam of about 8 feet. It has a draft of four feet, and displaces about 4.5 tons.

Our boat is being built as a cruising vessel. It will be planked in aromatic port orford cedar from southern Oregon, over white oak frames. The house sides will be mahogany. The boat is driven by a 54 hp Yanmar diesel engine, and will be customized to the owner’s desire’s before delivery.

Sentinel 24
Sentinel 24

Stephens/Waring Yacht Designed “Sentinel 24”

Instructor: Sean Koomen

Photo Gallery

Commission Posting

This is the first boat in the Sentinel-24 class of designed by Stephens/Waring Yacht Design of Belfast, Maine (SWYD) .

The Sentinel-24 class is designed to be a comfortable and stylish sloop with the beautiful lines of yesterday’s classics paired with modern underbody design and state-of-the art rigging.

This vessel represents Stephens Waring Yacht Design’s signature approach to distinctive, fun and high performance sailing with more than a touch of historic grace.

Historical Whitehalls Replication
Historical Whitehalls Replication

Classic American Whitehalls

Instructors: Ben Kahn and Jeff Hammond

Photo Gallery

Commission Posting

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is contracting with the School for the construction of three traditionally-built Whitehalls to be built as replicas of the boats used by John Wesley Powell and his group during their first-ever descent of the Colorado River in 1869. The BBC will film a reenactment of the voyage later in 2013.

The School is building one 16-foot Whitehall, the “Scout Boat”, and two 21-foot Whitehalls. Though Powell launched four Whitehalls onto the river in 1869, one was lost in rapids shortly after the descent began.

Whitehalls are the iconic American pulling boat.


Bob Perry Double Ended Day Sailor
Bob Perry Double Ended Day Sailor

Robert Perry 62′ Wood Composite Yacht “Sliver”

Instructor: Bruce Blatchley

Photo Gallery

Commission Posting

This 62-foot strip-planked day sailor was designed by the renowned designer Robert Perry for a client here in the Pacific Northwest.

Bob Perry has been very pleased with the School’s progress on the boat, and has remarked more than once that he feels we are doing a superlative job on the construction.

The boat was built on molds cut by Turn Point Design in Port

The hull is western red cedar sheathed in 24-ounce fiberglass. WEST System products have been used throughout the project.

Sid Skiff
Sid Skiff

Lapstrake Sid Skiff (for sale)

Instructor: Jeff Hammond

Photo Gallery

Video of Sea Trials

Commission Posting

Master Boatbuilder Ray Speck drew the lines for this classic Puget Sound small craft while working as a boatbuilder in Sausalito CA. Ray saw that the harbormaster, Sid Foster, was using a particularly sweet little 12′ 5″ lapstrake skiff to row around Richardson Bay.

Ray took the little skiff’s lines with Sid’s permission, and over time, developed them into a range of skiffs from 13 to 18 feet long. Ray estimates he’s built just about one hundred of these beautiful boats so far in his nearly 45 year career as a boatbuilder, many of them while teaching at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. The Sid is an excellent sailor as well as a very nice boat to row. A rare combination.

Planked in red cedar, framed with white oak and trimmed with a combination of Honduras mahogany and Sapele this is the most recent of many built at the school.

Davis Pulling Boat
Davis Pulling Boat

Davis Pulling Row Boat

Instructor: Jeff Hammond

Photo Gallery

Commission Posting

The Davis Pulling Row Boat is carvel planked. The Davis boats were built by a native family in Southeast Alaska. It is believed that they were modeled on the Pelagic Sealing Skiffs and ship’s boats. They were very popular and used in the hand trolling fishing industry of the early to mid part of the 20th century. The lines were taken from an orginial boat that is in the Center for Wooden Boat’s permanent collection in Seattle.

grandyLapstrake Planked Grandy Skiff

Instructor: Jeff Hammond

Photo Gallery

Commission Posting

Grandy Skiff, lapstrake planked in western red cedar and framed in white oak.

The cross bars (called “cross spalls”) keep the boats shape against the press of the white oak frames until the interior is constructed. — at Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.

bartenderPlywood Bartender Work Boat

Instructor: Bruce Blatchley

Photo Gallery

During WWII George Calkins built boats for the war effort. After the war he began focusing on smaller plywood boats. Prams, rowboats, dories, runabouts, race boats, and cabin cruisers emerged from the CalkinsCraft shop at Delake, OR (now Lincoln City).

Over a ten year period George built over 1,000 plywood boats. Besides being successfully built and used by recreational boaters all over the world, BARTENDERS have been used extensively in Australia by harbor patrols, state police, and Australia’s famous surf rescue teams. Several oil companies have utilized the BARTENDER in the offshore oil industry to get them through rough sea conditions that most other small craft would not handle.

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The Two Loves of Francis Lee


by Kurt Hoehne
January 31, 2014

Francis_Lee16asm-300x200The Francis Lee story is part love of craft and part love of sailing. The combination is simply the best of sailing and a showcase for the Pacific Northwest’s boatbuilding skills. (see complete list at end of article of those who contributed)
Love of Craft

It’s hard to find someone with greater love of craft that naval architect Bob Perry. At age 67 he continues to come up with elegant solutions for wide ranging clients. These particular clients, Kim and Susan Bottles, were already long time friends, which made the experience that much richer.

Perry and the Bottles shared an affinity for Bill Garden’s Oceanus design, which led to a close study of L. Francis Herreshoff’s drawings of the “Ultimate Sailing Machine.” The path started becoming clear, though Perry said “You want long waterline, I can do long waterline. But it will be mine, not his.” And so started the 4-year process that ended in January’s launch of the Francis Lee.FLrhp2

This was, from nearly the outset, to be a Pacific Northwest project to showcase the region’s boatbuilding expertise and give a shot in the arm to the local marine industry.

But it became much more than that when the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building was chosen for the construction. The School’s enthusiasm for the project spread and soon just about every skill and talent necessary to create this vessel came together around the boat.

Read More

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Class of 2014 skiffs nearing completion!

This year’s class has done a terrific job on their skiffs! We can’t wait to see them on the water!

Bruce Blatchley, instructor, with his students l. to r.: Bobby Bowen, Matt Shaunnessy, Austin Hatch, Penelope Partridge, Michael Mullally, Alex Finn, Alan Fenwick and Bruce Blatchley. (Not pictured are Ryan Oswalt and Peter Flint.) These students are finishing up their first quarter at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. During their initial quarter they study basic woodworking, drafting, lofting and skiff building.

Peter Bailey's group
Peter Bailey, instructor, with his students l. to r.: Rw Barrett, Andrew McGilvra, Peter Bailey, Johnathan Ishmael, Bradley Suedekum, Chris Carle, Drew Larson, John Sandoval, and Kristen Andrews.

Ben Kahn's group
Ben Kahn, instructor, with his students l. to r.: Jeff Lydston, Ben Kahn, Chuck Garrett, Alex Cox, Noah Sturdy, Chris Lindstam, Reuben Ewan,  and Steve Kim. (Not pictured are Galen Brake and Glenn Quarles.)

Ernie Baird, instructor, with his students l. to r. Jacob Simmering, Lafayette Duvall, Mussa Ulenga, Ernie Baird, Adrian Candaux, Russell Bates, Caro Clark,  Alden Rohrer and Gary Ragsdale . (Not pictured are Jessiah Worley and Mark Paxton.)

Jesse Long, instructor, with his students l. to r.: Jesse Long, Eric Kay, Mike Lee, Michael Voderberg, Cyrus Dworsky, and Caleb Underwood. (Not pictured are Alec Binder and Corey Rodgers.)