Bringing History to Life through Boatbuilding

In a few weeks’ time, The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) will be offering the first in an ongoing series of classes building the John Winslow 1920 designed Kitten Class Sloop. This class series is an experimental model for us and will take place in the brand new and very spacious Bill Garden Boatshop within the Wagner Education Center. Our mission with this project is to engage and educate the local community in Seattle’s maritime history through hands-on experiential learning. We want people to get their hands dirty and create shavings by using the same boat building techniques used 100 years ago.

The project is broken down into a series of weekend to week-long classes over the course of the next year, and our goal is to involve as many people as possible. You don’t need any previous experience or skills to sign up. Highly skilled Shipwrights will teach each class, instructing students step-by-step. Each class will focus on one stage of the boat construction process such as mold building, steam bending frames, planking, riveting, and sail making. Students will be able to hold a block plane, shave away, and feel the fairness of the hull’s lines with their own hands.

The Bill Garden Boatshop was designed to display and highlight the process of maintaining and building wooden boats. The shop features towering windows on three sides, allowing visitors to Lake Union Park to easily see the activity taking place inside. Building a new wooden boat is time consuming, complex, and, more than anything, entertaining to watch. We believe that putting the process on display for the public will help people appreciate the beauty and function of the historic vessels that can they can use on CWB’s own docks. We will be documenting the entire process through social media, blog posts, and videos, and we encourage you to follow along!

We knew that we wanted to build a new traditional boat; the next step was to find an appropriate design that would fit our mission. The Kitten was an easy and obvious choice for many reasons. This boat was designed and built by local Seattle legends John Winslow, Norm Blanchard, and Ted Geary for the Seattle Yacht Club in the 1920’s. The Kitten taught young people how to sail for decades on the waters of Lake Union and Portage Bay. There are currently no Kittens still sailing, however, CWB has an original in our “off-the-water” collection. We will be displaying the original next to the replica build, which will allow us take accurate lines and measurements, making the new Kitten as historically accurate as possible. Additionally, Winslow wrote an article for Pacific Motor Boat Magazine in 1920 that details the entire construction process, giving us  invaluable source material for this project.

Once the boat is complete, the CWB Kitten will be launched and live on our docks. The boat will be available to rent, and will be used for lessons. We’re excited to bring this historic Seattle design to life and to use it for its original purpose. Everyone that participates in this project will have a hand in bringing these regions maritime history back to life.

This project is generously supported with funding from 4Culture and Edelman, Inc. You can register for the first class HERE!

Read the full post on the Center for Wooden Boats blog.

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