Fetch: Visit to Port Townsend

by · August 8, 2013

After the students graduated at the Great Lakes Boat Building School in June I headed south to park my van and Fetch, so I could fly to Port Townsend. Originally I was just going for 10 days or so and parked my rig at James Day in Grand Rapids. While in PT, I had so much fun that I decided to stay a bit longer. Andy’s dad, Frank James, was so kind to drive my rig over to his house where long-term parking was more suitable.

It was good to get back to PT for a while, seeing my family and friends and all the familiar places to hang out. One of the reasons I came to PT was to help out Ed Louchard with a fabulous boat project. He was in the final stages of a thorough restoration (or replica?) of Vapor, one of the last remaining go-fast steam launches of this kind, built by the Herreshoff Boatyard. The boat was about 30’ long, fairly narrow with 6’ beam and capable of going 16 knots. The big steam engine was in LA, with the owner of the boat. It had been in Ed’s shop for years and Ed had asked me to help getting it done. Ed and his lovely family live out in the woods just outside PT and it was a treat to go there every day and work with Ed, William and Fish.


Port Townsend


Vapor in final stages


The foredeck I worked on


Ed’s shop


Ed makes custom sheaves as well


William was always smiling




a Barred Owl in Ed’s drive way.


In evenings and weekends I could hang out with my family and friends. My sons Theo and Nico joined me on a hike up Mount Townsend, just south of PT. We left early and got to the top around midday, before it started getting cloudy and rainy. Going down was a lot faster, but my muscles were quite sore the next few days.


Nico, Theo, Sofia and yours truly


on top of Mount Townsend





Right when I was in town, a sailboat (19’ Concordia Sloop) I had worked on in the Maritime Center was launched for the first time. I had a chance to help bend the sails on it and take her for a sail. Paul Siefried, the owner, had started this project 15 years ago. Paul is a renowned violin bow maker in town. He first lofted her and built the backbone. To learn how to do lapstrake planking he took a class at the Northwest Boatbuilding School in PT. He was the only student who had signed up, so they invited him to bring his boat over and plank it at the school. He worked hard for a few weeks till his body couldn’t do it anymore and got all the planks on. The boat then sat in his shop for 6 years waiting for more time. When I had just started being the boat shop educator at the brand-new Northwest Maritime Center, Paul and I decided to put the boat in the center to get finished. We worked on her for a few years off and on with help of Jason, Dave, Mike, Maud, Chuck and others to finish her out with frames, floors, decks, seats and spars. After my job ended there, I finished the rig and hardware. Sails were made by Northwest Sails and finally the boat was ready. It was a delight to sail her and Paul was happy.


First sail of Paul’s boat




Sean Rankin’s spitsgatter


Eileen R. freshly restored in the Maritime Center


A few months ago I was reading a book about a couple rowing from the Seattle area to Alaska and my mind started churning. What if I did something like that; it would be good for my health and an adventure at the same time. A lot of people have actually done that in either rowboats or kayaks. To Ketchikan is about 800 miles, which can take between one and two months of traveling. I called Ron Mueller in Bellingham, who designs rowboats. I knew him from doing raids (week long trips with small row and sail boats). He had designed some capable boats and mentioned there was one in PT, that had done that trip to Alaska. I went to see Ron at his house and he showed me his new design, the Salish Skiff, which was a delight to row. I also talked to Dale McKinnon, who lives in Bellingham as well and looked at her boat, designed by Sam Devlin. About 8 years ago she rowed that trip solo. I then drove to Port Angeles to see Chris Duff, who attempted to row from Scotland to Iceland! Twice he got stuck partway because of weather conditions. First he and his wife are going to kayak down the outside of Vancouver Island (no small feat by itself) and when the weather near Iceland is favorable, he’ll attempt the crossing to Iceland again. In PT I met Sue and Richard who have a Mueller designed double that Richard built. Sue rowed that trip in a similar boat with Robin years back. They were kind enough to let me try out their boat. My friend Marcelle and I took the boat out several times and had a blast. I don’t know yet whether I’ll row that trip single or with somebody, but a seed was planted.


Ron Mueller in his Salish Skiff


Dale McKinnon and her Dory


Chris Duff and his wife


Sue and Richard and their Merry Sea, which we borrowed


Marcelle ready to go!


Brief visit to Rat Island


At the end of my stay in PT I was in for another treat, the Pocket Yachters Palooza; a gathering of all kinds of small craft and their owners. Well represented were the Scamps, one of which was the first fiberglass one built by Gig Harbor Boat Works. They did a nice job. While working in the Maritime Center I had quite a bit to do with the development of Scamp’s wooden prototype and it was great to see her getting so popular.


Lots of Scamps in a row


Pocket Yachters Palooza at the Maritime Center



James McMullen, who sold me the Fulmar that became Fetch.


It was time to leave Port Townsend again. I flew back to Grand Rapids where Frank picked me up (bless his heart). I stayed the night at Frank and Judy and the next day I was off. Mind you, I hadn’t travelled in my van for over 10 months now, so it took a while to get used to things again. I stopped at Niagara Falls, where I was in awe and got wet standing right under one of the falls. Then east along Lake Ontario to Clayton NY and the Thousand Islands. Bud from the Great Lakes Boat Building School had recommended I visit the Antique Boat Museum and meet Mike Corrigan, who runs the boat shop. The museum is a very impressive facility with lots of beautiful classic boats. Power boats as well as canoes, Adirondack boats, Lawrence skiffs. Mike showed me the place and a large storage building full of lots more classic boats. I had a ride in one of the Hacker speedboats getting a sense of the islands. I also took out one of the gorgeous Lawrence River Skiffs.


Niagara Falls



Antique Boat Museum in Clayton NY


Nice facility


Mike Corrigan, the boat shop manager


Mike is building a replica of a Lawrence River Skiff in the boat shop


famous race boats


Adirondack Guide Boat


the Lawrence River Skiff that I rowed


I then launched Fetch and sailed two days in the Islands. I crossed the border to go in Canadian water and spend the night in pouring rain. I woke up with about 50 Canadian Geese (no kidding) around me and a snake swam around Fetch to get ashore. Early evening I had a great sail in a nice breeze around the west end of Grindstone Island and arrived back in Clayton late evening, just in time to load up before dark.


sailing Fetch with rain coming


sailing around Grindstone Island


I drove through the Adirondack Mountains and just before Lake Champlain, I saw a town called Keeseville and I just had to go there to take a picture. I crossed the Lake on a ferry and drove through Vermont and New Hampshire to Maine and went straight for the WoodenBoat School.


What do you know!

Discussion1 Comment

  1. adrian says:

    wow, what a life, i can not wait to have my own boat.

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