Big turnout expected for 37th annual Lake Union Wooden Boat Fest

The annual festival offers a chance to tour boats and get out on the waters of Lake Union. Photos courtesy of CWB

The annual festival offers a chance to tour boats and get out on the waters of Lake Union. Photos courtesy of CWB

This year’s Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival is expected to have a visitor whose presence is a much appreciated, if unreliable, part of the annual event — the sun.

With forecasts calling for sunny, warm temperatures through next week, organizers are expecting a high turnout for the four-day event, which starts this Thursday, July 4th.

“I expect that if it’s sunny, we’ll be somewhere up to around 35,000 people [in attendance],” said Dan Leach, CWB community engagement coordinator and boatwright.

“I’m optimistic we’ll have a good turnout.”

The 37th annual festival, which takes place at The Center for Wooden Boats on the south end of Lake Union, will feature activities including a microbrew tasting night, dragonboat race lessons and workshops on a variety of topics.

On the evening of Saturday, July 6, World Sports Grille (formerly Jillian’s Billiards), is hosting a microbrew tasting night that allows visitors to buy an $8 ticket and sample a variety of regional brews, with proceeds going to support CWB. There will be live music every day of the festival near the beer garden, which will be open late July 4th.

Workshop offerings this year include daily sessions on electrical power for boats, and ship surveying skills demonstrations on July 4 and 5 conducted by Havorn Marine Survey & Shipwright School owner Lee Ehrheart aboard the historic tugboat Arthur Foss.

On Saturday, July 6, the Seattle Flying Dragon Boat Club and Seattle SAKE Dragon Boat Club — which normally compete against each other — are joining forces to offer a chance for festival attendees (over 18 years of age or 12 to 17 with parent’s permission) to learn dragonboat paddling and participate in a short race.

Last year's festival included a vintage swimwear fashion show.

Last year’s festival included a vintage swimwear fashion show.

And as always, there will be plenty of boats to see, many of them open for tours. Participating boats include a 57-foot Chris-Craft built in the 1950s that is making its first appearance after an extensive restoration, as well as CWB’s newly restored Herreshoff 12.5-foot gaff-riffed sloop, Shrimpo.

Also there will be Lotus, a 92-foot, 1909 boat listed on the National Register of Historic Places; Arroyo, a 42-foot Ben Seaborn design built in 1938 at the Blanchard boatshop; the 160-foot schooner Zodiac, built in 1924; and the 133-foot, 1913 schooner Adventuress, a National Historic Landmark vessel. Adventuress is scheduled to arrive at the festival July 5, after a three-day Scouts cruise marking the vessel’s centennial this year. Many of the larger boats will be offering paid tours during the festival (details at each vessel dockside or on their websites).

Also back this year is Mariners Night. The Seattle Mariners are offering reduced-price tickets to its game with the Boston Red Sox on Monday, July 8 at 7:10 p.m. Tickets are $20 (regular price $25) and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to CWB. Online tickets can be purchased here.

And as always, the Quick and Daring Boat Building contest will pit competitors against each other in a test of creativity and speed. Teams have 24 hours to construct a boat out of any material they choose and then race it. Previous entries have been made of grass, popcorn and in one particularly memorable case two years ago, dry ice. Leach recalls the boat capsizing after just one oar stroke into a spectacle of bubbling clouds.

“It was quite dramatic,” he said. “We gave them style points.”

The festival runs Thursday, July 4 through Sunday, July 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at The Center for Wooden Boats, 1010 Valley St. There’s no admission cost but donations are welcomed. Additional information and a full schedule of events are available on CWB’s website.

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