Historic buildings, incredible natural beauty, thriving arts and culture, robust agriculture, and festivals celebrating everything from chamber music to weird beer – our community has a rare …
Historic buildings, incredible natural beauty, thriving arts and culture, robust agriculture, and festivals celebrating everything from chamber music to weird beer – our community has a rare abundance that challenges anyone to pinpoint a single thing that wholly defines us. For me, for many, it’s boats and the sea.
Even before I ran the Maritime Center, I was drawn here again and again to ogle the work happening in the boatyard and to rub elbows with the Carhartt-clad heroes whose craftsmanship graces our waterfront.
When The Leader asked me to write this column to highlight the salty side of our collective enthusiasm, as a self-professed boat nerd, I couldn’t say no. If there was an annual award for “Most Maritime Community,” we’d win hands down for our unique ecosystem of boatbuilders, boatbuilding school, public school focus, festivals and supporting nonprofits. I’m in love with our maritime side, and as long as you’ll read it, I’ve been given a monthly opportunity to share.
For its relevance to current news, first on the list: Point Hudson.
Even if you only think of it as a nice place to eat, park an RV or walk your dog, maritime folks from all over know Point Hudson as the charismatic face of Port Townsend. They come for the Wooden Boat Festival or an overnight stay in the marina. It’s cute, it’s small and it has the sweetest jetty, desperately in need of replacement, that anyone has ever seen.
What’s less known is that Point Hudson has been home more than its share of maritime activities since before the town existed. Before the arrival of Europeans, it was a tribal destination for fishing and shellfish gathering. In the late 1800s, the Puget Sound Pilots Association started rowing out to ships and guiding them through the tidal maze of Puget Sound. Last year, the Pilots guided in more than $80 billion worth of cargo past their Point Hudson birthplace.
Legend has it that the Wooden Boat Festival (now 40 years strong) was started here around a campfire and with a largely disputed quantity of wine. Point Hudson is where 24-year-old Carol Hasse sailed into town and started making sails on the same sewing machine she slept under to save on rent.
It’s where Brion Toss set up his rigging shop and wrote the book that remains the bible for armchair dreamers and traditional riggers around the globe.
The same building has been home to living luminaries who’ve carried the torch of craftsmanship: Bruce Tipton, Sam Connor, Jim Peacock, Ed Louchard, Tom George and now Steve Chapin, who plies his trade as one of the few worldwide who is skilled enough to build and maintain wooden rowing shells – violin craftsmanship meant for human propulsion.
The Wooden Boat Foundation, Port Townsend Foundry, Puget Sound Express, Schooner Martha, the Northwest Maritime Center, Race to Alaska – all found their place on the shores of this little marina.
Point Hudson’s incubation and innovation continue. The latest: Jones Jets, a project of SEA Marine that is making cutting-edge, high-speed jet boats, and employing 12 different tradespeople to do so – jobs created and sustained here.
Imagine: an 11-foot boat that will do upward of 40 mph. On a flat day, you could be in Seattle in 60 minutes, the San Juans in 30. Jones Jets is at the Seattle Boat Show this week, promoting the project in anticipation of a coming approval for its design.
Regrettably, I’m nowhere near the front of the line for a test drive.
With Point Hudson’s deep maritime heritage from prehistory to the wooden boat renaissance, and acting as an incubator of craftsmanship and innovation, as well as our welcome mat for floating tourists, like the rest of our maritime culture, I can’t imagine our community without its vibrancy.
(Jake Beattie is executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend.)