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Week 15: Pancakes



Somewhere along the line an editor has politely told me no introductory clause has a single word and certainly should not be a breakfast meal. What a shame, all that lecturing gone to waste and I insist on opening with pancakes.

IMG_4307Mind you, that is not all we did during week 15, but the blueberry pancakes for lunch on Thursday will take a while to fade from memory. Many thanks to staff members Tulip Morrow (Student Services Cooridnator), Heidi Groh (Admissions Coordinator) and Christina Cogan (Communications & Development Coordinator). Add to that one of our classmates and Jedi master Sean Koomen (Chief Instructor), who makes a mean blueberry buckwheat pancake. Why all this breakfast nonsense? Thursday was national blueberry pancake day—at least according to Congress. And you thought they did nothing useful in Washington DC? Ok, enough pancakes and syrup, at least for the moment.

So, where do we stand here at week 15?

Jedi master Jody Boyle patiently watched for two days as a pair of us large craft knuckle-draggers tried to figure out how in-walls are installed on a skiff. (Yes, there are at least two more skiffs waiting to float out of the Class of 2016’s  growing fleet.) We finally figured out the game, and then he divulged a secret. ‘PATTERN BEFORE TRYING TO BEND TIMBERS.’ We had the second in-wall done in less than 60 minutes. When it comes to wooden boatbuilding, experience and lessons learned sure beats labor and silent cursing. Thinking of labor…

Remember Oliver? I introduced Oliver last week. Our ceaseless taskmaster of a planer who will take all manner of abuse regardless of timber or weather. We knew Oliver could care less about wood types and what we discovered this week is that he cares less about rain. Good thing. It’s been wet up here in the Northwest—still beats snow. My apologies to counterparts in Maine.

So we start feeding Oliver in the pouring rain. No worries. He’s up to the task.


The result? A “Great Wall of Wood” in the Hammond Shop. We are drying planking for the Felicity Ann, Folkboat, and Whitehalls, all at one time. Makes for a lot of scrambling around timbers and the “stickers” necessary to provide breathing space necessary to take this lumber from building material to ship stock.

No one said wooden boatbuilding was easy on the imagination or spine.

Time to stop grumbling. Another skiff has met the sea. On Wednesday, Master Jedi Bruce Blatchley splashed “Thin Lizzy.” Rain or no rain, this stretched version of the standard skiff (we added two feet), went into the Pacific and out for a row. Proving he was up to the task, Bruce took the lead in rowing Thin Lizzy around the bay. A skiff that will serve family and friends for a generation to come.

So where do we stand?

Up at the large craft shop the Sea Beast has found decking and a cockpit. The Felicity Ann has most of her planking, and the Folkboat won an admirable white oak transom. And then we spent time steaming and bending timbers. Who said we sleep up here in the sawdust kingdom?

In the Rubb Shelter the Whitehall teams are proving the craftsperson skills we learned in that first quarter and are about to meet Oliver. (He’s cranky…just my head’s up.) Down in contemporary, half the submarine looks like epoxy wizards are ready to roll. (I still have to figure out the pram they are working on…more to follow.)   And in the Westrem…? Well, a lot of lofting and crafting of all the bits and pieces that make up anything that floats.

And so goes another week here at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. If you thought this was all work and no fun, keep in mind a colleague, his wife and I had the chance to sail last Sunday and are looking forward to much more time afloat. Imagine the scenery when the clouds blow out and the strait opens to fair winds and following seas. Kind of like thinking of pancakes when you make same with an intention to make people happy—always fun when the work is done.

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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.