Home Features Art & Soul

Art & Soul

by Kate Calamusa

The Center for Wooden Boats invites you inside the bustling boatshops that hum at the heart of its historic and iconic campus nestled on the shores of South Lake Union. Here, in both the light-filled Wagner Education Center and the distinctive floating boatshop, classic wooden boats are lovingly, artfully, and masterfully created or restored at the hands of the expert in-house team and enthusiastic students alike.


Lead Boatwright Dustin Espey uses a chisel and a wooden mallet to repair the rub rail on the Thistle, an antique vessel.

Want to give it a try? You can, as CWB offers weeklong, build-your-own-boat workshops in partnership with Chesapeake Light Craft. Working away in the airy shop space inside the Wagner Education Center, the budding builders lay fiberglass over the decks of their creations as they are being guided through the construction of their own kayaks by instructor Casey Wilkinson of Kea Kayaks.

A handmade kayak from the CLC workshop boasts an orca overlay, crafted from a nicely finished piece of plywood, to serve as a personalized detail on top of the bow.

An assemblage of oars sits at the ready in the boat livery.

The intricate set of oars for a 100-year old Whitehall rowboat in CWB’s livery.

Here, the hand-stitched leather protects the oar from chafing in the oarlocks, with a button to keep it from sliding out of place on the boat.

Curator Shelby Allman pitches in to finish some oars for the livery in the Floating Boatshop.

The tool wall inside the Floating Boatshop, with shelving and storage for shoulder planes, block planes, hand planes, chisels, and handsaws. Tools are often donated by the community, giving these instruments a second life just as they give vessels a new one, too.

CWB utilizes a fleet of small, colorful El Toro sailboats for its youth programs; this close-up highlights the details of an El Toro deck partner for the mast.

Preserved and displayed in all her original glory, this historic Kitten from the late 1920s served as a model when the team recently built their own replica version in the shop.

Inside the Wagner Education Center, beautifully detailed boats hang suspended in a towering entryway for visitors to gaze up at as they enter and then get an inside look by heading up to a second floor viewpoint.

A view of the CWB docks from the south, looking northwards at the Floating Boathouse. Tied up at the docks, you’ll spy from left to right: Poco Moto (1956 Alden Malabar Junior), Nonchalant (1927 Boeing Bridge Deck Cruiser), MS Wolf (1932 Columbia River Bowpicker), and Sea Fever (1956 Ben Seaborn Sloop).

Tidy lines at the dock.

The entrance to the much beloved Floating Boathouse located on the docks.

The latest addition to campus, the Olson Kundig-designed Wagner Education Center in South Lake Union, was completed in 2018.

>> For information on upcoming boat building workshops, plus full details on all the programs at The Center for Wooden Boats, visit: cwb.org.

You may also like

Leave a Comment