Source: Wooden Boat Foundation •

History of the Wooden Boat Foundation & Festival

1979 Wooden Boat Festival logoFounded in 1978, after the first and highly successful Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, theWooden Boat Foundation has grown over three decades to serve nearly 150,000 people annually in its educational programs, events and services.

What started as a wild idea, a vision of community and a lifestyle of "salt water hippies" centered on boats and the sea, sparked a national conversation among those involved in the then nascent wooden boat revival. More than 2,000 people from all corners of the US and several Canadian provinces traveled, some with their boats and tools, to the first nationally recognized Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend. 

Leaders from that group served as board and staff, inspiring a commitment that continues to this day. Through the decades, WBF and an ever-growing number of marine trades business and maritime education partners, carry on their work with a progressive "PT" style of community and business. 

The most popular and largest program continues to be the internationally renowned Wooden BoatFestival, but this small non-profit also offers an eclectic and well stocked Maritime Library, a high quality Wooden Boat Chandlery and active Boat Shop. All are open to the public year round in the historic Point Hudson district of downtown Port Townsend.festival_history_wbfest97-olsen .jpg

During the spring, summer and fall, the Wooden Boat Foundation supports youth and adult programs at the Northwest Maritime Center. These programs offer experiences, information and on-the-water opportunities that seem to grow every year. From 7 year olds to octegenarians, the Wooden Boat Foundation continues to be a place, a supporter, an organization through which parents, teachers, other non-profits and local entrepreneurs have created programs for decades.

Some of those programsincluded:

  • Community Sailing, that grew and specialized into highly successful Learn to Sail programs for youth, adults, women and the High School Racing Club.
  • Community Rowing, that grew and specialized in the Rat Island Rowing & Sculling Club, the Pocock Singles Project and a variety of fixed and sliding seat rental or storage options.
  • Summer Youth Sea Symposium, that grew and specialized into Family Boatbuilding, Puget Sound Explorers, Longboat Expeditions and partnerships with sail training vessels like Schooner Martha Foundation , Alcyone and Bryony, and other maritime non-profits includingNorthwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, Port Townsend Marine Science Center and Sound Experience.
  • Wooden Boat symposium: OlsenClassic Mariners Regatta, which continues and has expanded to otherclassic and wooden boat regattas.In the 1990s, programs became the central focus of the Foundation and in 1995, the idea to purchase a permanent home was born and launched. It was called Northwest Maritime Center and the building fund was established.

The idea quickly grew and like other some other programs and non-profits in the area, the Northwest Maritime Center ( became a separate but closely associated organization. When the Thomas Oil property located on the waterfront, where the historic downtown joined the Point Hudson maritime district, community and regional leaders joined the effort raising nearly $1 million dollars to buy the property and dock. That effort lead to hundreds of community meetings and a decade of work that culminated in the integrated Northwest Maritime Center & Wooden Boat Foundation you find today.

festival_history_Sept76olsen.jpgSince 2006, the Wooden Boat Foundation has deepened a commitment to its founding role as a "foundation" and to preserving and promoting wooden boat heritage, culture and skills. Through these efforts with adults - mainly through Festival, Chandlery and Regattas, WBF raises funds to support a broader array of youth and adult educational programs and events at the Northwest Maritime Center.

In January, 2008, the Northwest Maritime Center construction began and the buildings opened at Festival 2009! The facilities connect the Victorian historic downtown with the maritime heritage and modern marine trades activity of Point Hudson, the home of the Wooden Boat Festival since 1977.