Hammering away on history | Working Waterfront

Haven Boatworks gives the Carlisle II a little love

Posted 12/31/69

Once again, Port Townsend’s own Haven Boatworks has their hands on a significant piece of Washington’s maritime history, as the Carlisle II gets a little TLC from their talented …

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Hammering away on history | Working Waterfront

Haven Boatworks gives the Carlisle II a little love

Posted

Once again, Port Townsend’s own Haven Boatworks has their hands on a significant piece of Washington’s maritime history, as the Carlisle II gets a little TLC from their talented crew.

One of the last of the Puget Sound’s original mosquito fleet, the Carlisle II — built in 1917 — was one of the countless privately-owned steamers and sternwheelers that shuffled the area’s people and goods throughout the region.

In the years following WWII, with the arrival of a state-run ferry system and passengers increasingly traveling by car, the mosquito fleet fell into obscurity. Many of the former vessels went un-repaired or neglected and eventually succumbed to the fate that awaits all wooden boats without men and women who are willing to dedicate their time and effort. But the Carlisle II remained.

These days, when she’s not being serviced at Haven, the Carlisle II usually operates as a passenger-only ferry, shuttling people back and forth between Port Orchard and Bremerton. 

Blaise Holly is the lead shipwright over at Haven Boatworks and he estimated that since her arrival in early December, somewhere between 24 and 30 people have been diligently working on the historic boat daily.

Aside from the obvious historical and aesthetic value of the boat, Holly said the owner of the foot ferry, Kitsap Transit, has a financial incentive for operating a vessel that is older than sliced bread and wrist watches that don’t need to be wound.   

“They realized that this is the most cost-efficient boat they’ve got,” Holly said of the Carlisle II. “They’ve got modern aluminum catamarans, but the fuel consumption for Carlisle on the run between Port Orchard and Bremerton is just a fraction of what those other boats take.”

Factoring in the work being done on the boat in regular intervals, coupled with her relatively low operating costs, Holly said the Carlisle’s a fairly cheap ferry to run.

Blocked up inside a massive tent, walled with shrink wrap and framed by scaffolding, the Carlisle sits patiently as Haven’s shipwrights bustle about working to complete their respective tasks. A persistent and varied series of tool sounds emanate from different locations around and within the ferry as the crew plugs away.

As for the work being done during this visit, Holly said her port side has seen a fair bit of her planking and frames repaired. An unpainted section of plywood sheathing on the ferry’s house tattles its recent replacement, although little else has been done to the framing for the house. All new window frames and glazing have been added, as well.

Perhaps the most noticeable feature is the addition of a rounded extension to the top of the second level passenger area. Where the cambered roof previously stopped abruptly, the shipwrights have replicated similar curves found in other aft-facing planes on the boat to extend the top out, culminating in a gentle curve that is very pleasing to the eye.

Holly said the shipwright crew were getting ready to finish up their portion of the work and the painting crew was at the ready to slap a new coat on her. The marine systems crew members, Holly added, had begun the task of diving into the “guts of the boat” to rewire and repower her. The systems crew will also be pulling Carlisle’s old John Deere motor and replacing it with a Cummins and a new genset.

“All boats need maintenance from time to time,” Holly said. “It’s fascinating and, as a shipwright, gratifying to see this over-a-century old wooden boat — that was built with fir that grew right around the shores of Puget Sound — here we are just doing the work that we love to do so well, and she’ll be good to go for decades to come.”

Despite the Carlisle’s renown and her ties to an era bygone, Holly said his team didn’t feel any particular twinge of pressure to perform to any higher standard than what is usually expected form Haven Boatworks’ staff.

“What we’ve found is anybody that is going to aim themselves at this life, they really are doing it because of what it brings them for having completed the job,” Holly said. “That personal satisfaction, it really exists across the jobs that we get involved with. I think that’s what our customers respond to. It’s so readily apparent when anybody from Haven Boatworks picks up a tool to work on one of our customer’s boats, that dedication comes through.”

“We set such a high mark for ourselves, that it’s extraordinarily rare that we find we have to change anything on that front.”

Holly added that Haven Boatworks is always looking to bring in new talent and he encouraged anyone who thinks they might be interested in their line work to stop by.

“Anybody that thinks this is something they find interesting and hopes they might have an aptitude for ... to come down and introduce themselves,” Holly said. “We’re looking for the vital spark.”

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