Home Community Big Splash! Port Townsend’s
Wooden Boat Festival Returns

Big Splash! Port Townsend’s
Wooden Boat Festival Returns

by Norris Comer

Adventuress and company at the 2016 Wooden Boat Festival (photo: Irving Mortenson).

Adventuress and company at the 2016 Wooden Boat Festival (photo by Irving Mortenson).


Billed as “the most education-packed and beautifully located wooden boat event in the world,” the 41st Wooden Boat Festival happens September 8 through 10, 2017 in Port Townsend, Washington. This popular mariner’s extravaganza has long been the Northwest’s showpiece event for nautical culture and brings together over 300 boats along with experts and fans of all ages. Dozens of indoor and outdoor presentations and demonstrations take place on seven stages (all day, every day!), plus live music, and dancing, arts and crafts, food and drink, races, and even a boatbuilding challenge.

According to Festival Director Barb Trailer, this year brings even more exciting ways to get out on the water. In addition to popular longboat rides, participants can sign up to hop aboard the Martha J motor launch, sail Thunderbird sailboats, ride the historic schooners Adventuress and Zodiac, and paddle kayaks and paddleboards. You can even check out a Bumblebee sailboat for sailors under age five (yes, preschoolers can sail, too!). If you prefer to boat on land, there’s a walk-in paddleboard demo tank right in the middle of the event grounds.

In addition to races and sail-by exhibitions in Port Townsend Bay, there are over 158 wooden boats on display within Point Hudson marina. Owners often welcome visitors aboard. Want to learn how to build a ship in a bottle? Try your hand at oceanography with actual research instruments? Hear amazing stories from accomplished adventurers like Lin Pardey, Howard Rice, and many more?

Find out how to caulk, take care of your electrical system, and how to get your Captain’s License? Tour the Virginia V ferry and listen to the powerful historic steam engine and whistle? You will find almost endless pursuits indoors and out, afloat and ashore. Popular talks and excursions fill up quickly, so consult the festival schedule to plan your day.

2016 Wooden Boat Festival (photos: Irving Mortenson).

The Wooden Boat Festival features in-water classic vessels (left) and live how-to workshops (right). Photos by Irving Mortenson.


The Wooden Boat Festival is kid-friendly—families can build wooden boats, ride a carousel, fish paint a T-shirt, watch a play, sail a model sailboat, try the craft booth, or examine sea creatures with the help of Port Townsend Marine Science Center docents. Kids can dress like pirates and join in Sunday’s Treasure Hunt!

Adult tickets to the Festival include access to all Festival boats; all daytime presentations and demonstrations, exhibitors, music performances, kid’s activities, and food vendors. Single-day tickets are available online and at the gate for $20.00, with discounts for seniors, students, and active military. Multi-day passes are just $40.00 and offer similar discounts. Children under 12 get in free. No dogs are allowed, except service dogs. Tickets to Friday’s evening event, the Race to Alaska (R2AK) Blazer Party, are $30.00; revel with R2AK adventurers and hear tales of valor and woe from Port Townsend’s newest motorless race.

Join the Northwest Maritime Center online or at the gate and get free tickets to the Festival. Complete printed event packets are available about two weeks prior to the Festival— pick up a copy at the NWMC Chandlery. The 41st Wooden Boat Festival takes place at the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water Street, Port Townsend, WA, and throughout the grounds of Point Hudson Marina. Plan your visit and save time by purchasing tickets and checking out event announcements at nwmaritime.org/wooden-boat-festival.

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