Port Townsend boatbuilder Jim Blaiklock died Oct. 31, 2019, at Harrison Hospital in Bremerton, Wash., surrounded by friends. He was 79.
Jim was born to Grace and Thomas Blaiklock on July 6, 1940, in Newark, New Jersey, 15 minutes prior to his fraternal twin, Robert. His father was from Sag Harbor, New York, and the family spent summers there. When Jim was about 10, his father bought a 30-foot schooner called Pik Hai (mahogany on oak, with a canvas-covered teak deck). The family sailed on the Raritan River, and once to Narragansett Bay, but mainly to Sag Harbor, via the East River and Long Island Sound. On their first trip there, they rode out a hurricane, double-anchored in a sheltered Connecticut cove. Sag Harbor was also home to John Steinbeck; Jim recalled meeting the author on a beach walk.
Jim worked at an auto-body shop in high school, and for classical-music producer Westminster Records, turning out parts for a duplicating machine on a lathe.
Along with friends Tony Priolo, Jim Corcoran, and Robert “Colonel” Moore, Jim joined the Marine Corps in 1960, serving as a helicopter mechanic in Miramar, Calif. Jim remained close friends with Corcoran, Priolo and Colonel, as well as another high-school pal, Roger Cranse.
After the Marine Corps, Jim moved to Del Mar, Calif., and worked for a boatbuilder in San Diego. He later moved to Branscomb, Calif., and was active in the Laytonville Little Theater from its inception in 1982, as actor, singer, set builder and designer. He continued to work as a boatbuilder, and also built furniture on commission. He frequently sailed his 22-foot folding schooner, Silver Bullet, on Lake Mendocino and Clear Lake, and enjoyed rowing on rivers and camping at the coast with friends. Jim also made round copper tins, palm-sized and lined in suede, and gave them as gifts; each bore a design on its perfectly-fitted lid.
Jim moved to Port Townsend in 1992, having visited for several Wooden Boat Festivals before that. He started as a volunteer and was eventually hired as Shop Manager for the Wooden Boat Foundation. Part of his job was picking up donated boats from around Puget Sound, sailing them back and fixing them up to be sold to raise money. As shop manager, Jim was a beloved mentor to scores of Gray Wolf Ranch volunteers who worked there. Many spoke of learning more about life from him than anywhere else. Jim taught them that “slow is fast,” meaning take your time and do it right so you don’t have to do it over; and to live life with finesse.
Jim drew standing-room-only crowds at several Boat Festivals with his entertaining, knowledgeable demos on Dutchmen and Butterflies. He ran the Kids Boatbuilding booth at Festival for years, designing templates and cutting the hulls, procuring supplies all year long, then staying after on Sundays until every scrap of sail, string, glob of glue and nail was picked up. Jim was known for doing every job completely, and advocated for “sweetening the pot,” as he’d say: Doing more than you were hired and paid to do. Jim was a founding member and officer of the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association.
In later years, Jim taught at the Community Boat Project in Hadlock, for whose fundraisers he built elegant “baby boat” cradles.
Gallant, goofy, and golden-hearted, Jim was well loved. He loved animals, and his wish was for his forested property to remain untouched forever. As another friend said, Jim was “ like a particularly unique vintage of whiskey ... only the people who got to drink it understand how truly special it was.”
Jim is survived by his brothers, William and Robert, and a plethora of pals.
A Celebration of Life is set for 2 p.m., January 11, 2020, at the Northwest Maritime Center.
In lieu of gifts and to support Jim’s legacy, please consider a donation to Real World Readiness , a partnership program between Jefferson County Juvenile Services and the Northwest Maritime Center. In this program, youth learn maritime skills to connect them to the workforce and to re-engage in school. Jim often said the job he loved most in his life was working with struggling youth in
the boat shop. To donate, contact Len at 360-385-3628 ext. 111, or firstname.lastname@example.org.