Wooden Boat Building School marks progress

Announces $1 million in hand for upcoming projects


With $1.5 million in recent upgrades to its campus, the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building is whetting the community’s appetite for another $1 million in upcoming projects, all of which is funded.

The school’s now seven-acre waterfront campus at Port Hadlock is seeing strong interest in the marine systems program, which expands the hull, deck, cabin and spars curriculum to include courses in electrical systems, corrosion, diesel and gas engines, propulsion, hydraulics, marine plumbing and marine HVAC, said Executive Director Betsy Davis.

Of the projects still in progress, $120,000 is being spent on the Birkenfeld building rehabilitation, while $30,000 is being spent on painting, gutters, signs and landscaping for the waterfront buildings. The big item is $800,000 for the marine systems shop.

Although the rehabilitation of the Galster House continues Davis could not offer a final estimate on its cost.

Instructor Sean Koomen noted that the improvements to the waterfront buildings represented more than an opportunity to refurbish: there were real concerns that those buildings might go into the water otherwise.

Koomen also pointed out the appeal of the school’s marine systems program, which is already waitlisting students for the next enrollment period.

Koomen and Davis agreed that all of these projects were intended to enhance their students’ education first and foremost, with Davis attesting to how the mere act of allowing students to “lay their hands on these boats” can be a life-changing experience for them, while Koomen summed up the school’s accomplishments to date as part of its original five-year plan, starting in 2014.

“If we can keep that momentum going through the next five years, from 2020 to 2025, we can further refine what we’ve built on these 7 acres,” Koomen said.

Davis noted how complex the process of stabilizing the weathered pilings and repairing the failing seawall were, since they required the involvement and approval of seven government agencies.

At the same time, Davis pointed out the benefits of creating a continuous campus by purchasing a near-acre of land in between, and expanding the septic system while signing a long-term lease for the Ajax Café.

“The Ajax Café needed a septic system,” Davis said. “Because they have one, they’ve been able to reopen. Joining the two campuses, with the Community Boat Project up the hill and the school on the water, has given us more space. Between the Ajax Café and our other neighbors, Northwest Sails and Canvas and the Star Marine family-owned tugboat company, this is not just a place to learn, but a place whose heritage makes it a jewel in the area.”

Davis credited this heritage with earning the school a seventh-place spot, out of 36 approved projects across the state, for funds from the state Heritage Capital Projects Fund.

Looking to the future, the school plans to build a 5,000-square-foot building for its marine systems program, for which $464,000 has been appropriated by the legislators of the 24th District, including House Capital Budget Committee Chair Rep. Steve Tharinger, Rep. Mike Chapman and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege.


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