UPDATE | Northwest Maritime Center cancels Wooden Boat

Posted 9/2/21

The Wooden Boat Festival was cancelled Friday due to numerous boaters, presenters, and exhibitors pulling out due to safety concerns related to COVID, the  Northwest Maritime Center announced …

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UPDATE | Northwest Maritime Center cancels Wooden Boat


The Wooden Boat Festival was cancelled Friday due to numerous boaters, presenters, and exhibitors pulling out due to safety concerns related to COVID, the  Northwest Maritime Center announced Aug. 27.

With the volatility of the current health environment, increasing COVID anxiety among participants, and boaters saying they wouldn’t come, the Northwest Maritime Center decided to pull the plug on the festival — Port Townsend’s biggest summertime event — before it was too late.

“We were getting a lot of cancellations,” said Jake Beattie, executive director for the maritime center.

“It’s not a fun decision to make. We were looking forward to it,” he said of the festival.


The festival was called off a week after the maritime center announced that all festival-goers and staff would have to show proof of vaccination to attend.

Most organizers and participants supported the announcement, although some involved in the festival felt the precaution wasn’t enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while others felt it was excessive and unnecessary.

“We got feedback across the spectrum,” Beattie said.

One Port Townsend resident opposing the proof of vaccination requirement was Beth O’Neal, former Captain for Bar Harbor, who resigned from the bar after the vaccine protocols were announced.

In her resignation letter, O’Neal said: “This continued fear rhetoric, divisiveness, and infantilizing of adults, while the pharmaceutical/chemical industrial complex, oil (plastic) industry, and big tech continue the devastation of our planet and gain more and more power, is a direct threat to freedom, health and scientific integrity.”

O’Neal critiqued festival coordinators for mandating proof of vaccination, as she opposes the COVID vaccine.

She continued, “I’m very concerned, disappointed and sad … I don’t recognize my own town anymore.”

In contrast, County Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour supported the expanded vaccine protocols as well as the eventual decision to cancel the festival, and said festival organizers had been “very thoughtful in their consideration for the community.”

“I think a lot of people will be disappointed. But I trust that they’re making the right decision for the community, organization, and visitors,” Eisenhour said. “I think it was the prudent way to go. It will inevitably come back.”

The cancelation of the festival was not for of lack of interest, as there were approximately 500 volunteers ready to help out and more than 1000 tickets pre-sold.

After the proof of vaccination requirement was announced, surprisingly, “ticket sales went up for attendees,” Beattie said.


Although ticket sales were increasing, venders, exhibiters, and boaters were pulling out, leaving the maritime center in a tough spot.

Without boaters and presenters, coordinators felt the festival wouldn’t meet their lofty standards.

The maritime center lost an estimated $150,000 by cancelling the festival.

The shutdown will also hurt some businesses, as it has traditionally attracted tourists from across the country and around the world.

Kris Nelson, owner of four local restaurants and bars, said she understood why the festival couldn’t be held.

“I am certainly sad to hear about the festival needing to cancel, but I totally understand with the uncertainty of the Delta virus and people gathering,” Nelson said.

“Yes, it will certainly impact my restaurants. Like every cancelled festival in our community, there is a financial loss to our local businesses, and none impact[s] us more than the business the Wooden Boat Festival brings,” she added.

With a year and a half of COVID hammering local businesses, many businesses will be hurt by the lack of tourists coming in.

“I just hope all of our festivals, nonprofits, and small businesses can hold on,” Nelson said.


Eron Berg, Port of Port Townsend’s executive director said it wouldn’t have a big operational impact on the port.

“It’s sad. Two years in a row without a pinnacle festival is a big loss. We’re doing what we can to be supportive,” Berg said.

Although many organizers, participants, and residents are unhappy with the cancellation, many look forward to seeing the Wooden Boat Festival in 2022.

“We didn’t have confidence that [the festival] was going to live up to standards,” Beattie said. We have a motto:  We don’t do ‘B’ work.”


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • MargeS

    "One Port Townsend resident opposing the proof of vaccination requirement was Beth O’ Neal, former Captain for Bar Harbor, who resigned from the bar after the vaccine protocols were announced."

    Could James Sloan please explain this paragraph. What is a former Captain for Bar Harbor that they resigned from? A bar, a boat, a place.

    Sounds like someone hasn't been keeping up with the number of cases & deaths from Covid. So glad I live in Jefferson County where are health care professionals are taking care of us. Guess you better get a vaccination Miss O' Neal, so you can join the rest of us.

    Thursday, September 2, 2021 Report this

  • Mike Loriz

    "Captain" is short for "Volunteer Captain". Among the hundreds of volunteers, Volunteer Captains help organize and lead to get various jobs done. Bar Harbor is simply the big tent where alcohol sales, music, and dancing happen. I believe it is one of the high points of the festival, and likely one of the bigger profit centers for the NWMC. Just a guess. Ironically, Ms. O'Neal's conduct at the 2018 and 2019 festivals forced me to resign my position as one of the set-up captains.

    While we are talking about vaccines and masks, I'd like to add my two cents. Please consider everything I write to be as if under oath.

    I served as a Naval Officer and fighter/bomber pilot 1984-1991, including a trip to the Gulf. The F/A-18C (single seat) required users to wear a fairly heavy mask, which along with the integrated helmet kept us safe and well-aerated through all flight regimes. Of course, when pulling 7.5 gs in a bombing pattern or when doing ACM (air combat maneuvering), the 30# of gear on one's head turned into 200+# of gear, and tried to pull one's head the one's knees. We got used to it. We also took whatever vaccines we were told to take.

    As an airline pilot, too, the first thing we did if we had smoke in the cockpit or pressurization issues was to don the full face mask.

    In either case, pilot incapacitation would cause the loss of a $35 million fighter or, worse yet, the loss of an airliner over water with 240 people in back. And if I wanted to fly to Africa or South America (Yes!), we had to get vaccines. On top of that, I have gotten my flu shot every year for the past 30 or so. It has never bothered me, and I've never had the flu. Yay! science.

    An N-95 is such a relatively minor thing that I do not think it is a big deal at all. I am so grateful that Pfizer and Moderna were able to quickly modify the vaccines they had developed for the first SARS. I understand that mRNA vaccines are inherently easily modified.

    We had a COVID scare last week. On Thursday, my wife met at Sea Marine with an upholsterer about replacing some cushions. They met for about 20 minutes. Both were vaccinated and wore masks. Except for one period of a few minutes, they were distanced (all according to my wife).

    Early Friday, about 18 hours after my wife's shopping visit, I drove to Spokane where I have been helping my daughter fix up a house we are trying to help her buy with her fiance. They were utterly shut out of the market by cash offers, so we are trying something else. I spent Saturday and Sunday in close contact with her, installing ceiling tiles.

    She is an apparently healthy kid in her late 20s. However, a decade ago she came down with an auto-immune issue. I am so proud of that kid for dealing with it with such grace and strength. However, she has been on virtual lockdown for the past 16 months or so because a COVID infection could easily be fatal for her. Also, I have been extremely careful about my exposures, lest I bring her an unwanted present.

    Tuesday morning, Sea Marine called my wife to tell her that the person she had been talking to tested positive with a breakthrough case Friday, and was likely very contagious when my wife visited.

    Let me repeat that: Sea Marine waited four days (Friday to Tuesday) to notify my wife that her contact was hot.

    They further said that an unvaccinated employee caused the breakthrough case.

    My wife immediately called me in Spokane, and got the wheels turning to get a self-test. My first instinct was to get out of their house immediately. My daughter and I researched things a bit, and realized that even if my wife caught it from the Sea Marine employee, the 18 hours was almost certainly not enough time to incubate and become infectious. Tuesday afternoon, my wife's test came back negative, so we all breathed a big sigh of relief.

    As a though experiment, though, let's imagine that my wife caught a breakthrough case from the Sea Marine employee, and I left Monday, instead of Friday. So, I carried a breakthrough case to Spokane, infected my daughter, and she died. Not one of these possibilities is remote, given the way the Delta variant is moving.

    Continuing the though experiment: in this hypothetical case, what liability or moral responsibility would the unvaccinated Sea Marine employee who put the whole chain of events into motion have? What liability would Sea Marine have for taking so long to notify my wife of her exposure?

    Obviously, I support NWMC's vaccine mandate, and I do not blame them at all for cancelling. They were between the proverbial rock and hard place.

    Friday, September 3, 2021 Report this