2019 Wooden Boat Festival Follow-Up

I recently got back from the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, Washington, and it was a very long drive, so I’ve been spending some time recovering and not blogging. It was a great experience though, with a very supportive event staff and many, many appreciative visitors. The event took place over three days in September by the Northwest Maritime Center, and has apparently been going on every year since 1977.

I made the long drive up from home, staying overnight at my sister’s home in Shelton, Washington. From the San Francisco Bay Area, it was a 14-hour drive in my car loaded with models of Japanese traditional boats, plus tools and supplies to demonstrate model construction. Luckily, everything arrived safely.

All the woodworking, as well as the boat built by Douglas Brooks’s Japanese boatbuilding workshop, were located inside the big boathouse, which is where I had my display set up.

It was nice to be set up next to Suzuki Hardware and across from Kezuro Kai, which is a Japanese woodworking enthusiasts group, as I had met some of these people before when I was at a Kezuro Kai event in Oakland a few years back.

I spent three long days talking to people, explaining the different kinds of boats, how they were built, which ones were built from kits, and fending off “touchy” hands. This time, I got smart and made some signs, which didn’t work on 100% of the visitors. But, at least they would notice the sign at some point and would stop.

Manning the table by myself for all three days did make it a bit harder to get some lunch, water, take a bathroom break. But, Douglas’s wife Cathrine was really nice and went and got me some food and drink the first day. On the second day, my sister visited and watched the table, so I could take a bathroom break. But, she clearly could not handle people asking questions, and ratted me out as soon as I was in visual distance.

By the third day, things were a little quieter, and I no longer felt worried about leaving the table alone. Even the day before, I had discovered that by the afternoon, I couldn’t talk any more and just quietly demonstrated model building techniques.

In any case, on the third day, I was forced to take a break from manning the table, as I had promised Douglas I would lead the audience in a traditional Japanese folk song called Hobashira Okoshi Ondo, which is about raising the mast on a ship.

I’d never performed the song before, and three months ago, I’d never even heard of the song. But, it was performed by his friend, a former apprentice of the Japanese taiko drumming group, KODO, at a boat launching ceremony on the East Coast some time ago, and it really made the event more celebratory. The guy couldn’t come to this event, so Douglas asked me.

Luckily, I had lots of time to locate the words to the song and to memorize it, even though I don’t really speak Japanese. Of course, I was a little nervous about it, but being so involved in this event made it a lot easier.


I have to say, the crowd was really great, and that made it so much easier to sing and lead them in a call-and-answer chant of “Yoi sa! Yoi sa! Yoi sa! Yoi sa!”


Also, I followed a rather solemn Shinto ceremony that Douglas and his students had just performed, so the crowd was ready to shift into the more celebratory mood.

In a funny twist, the next day, Douglas forwarded me a link to the local newspaper, which used a photo of me singing on their front page story. I look a bit like a hellfire-and-brimstone preacher under the story heading “Connecting with the divine at the Wooden Boat Festival”.

Here’s a link to the newspaper article: https://www.ptleader.com/stories/connecting-with-the-divine-at-wooden-boat-festival,64844

By the end of the event, I was pretty well spent. I managed to sell my Higaki Kaisen model and my small Gifu Tabune model, which went a long way towards paying for the trip and the time away from work.

Thanks to a Andreas and Susi, a really wonderful couple living in Port Towsend that welcomed Douglas, his wife Cathrine, his friend from Japan Masashi, and myself into their home and took such great care of us, our expenses were light and we had a warm comfortable home the whole time. Plus, they often came to the event to check on us.

One day, Sunday I think, Susi had brought me a freshly made cinnamon doughnut she just bought at the event and it was the first thing I’d had since breakfast and I was so happy, she had to take a picture of me with my doughnut!

In the end, it was sad to say goodbye to everyone. Being a ship modeler here to display my Japanese boat models, it was so much more than that for me.

Friday night dinner at a local Japanese restaurant with, from left, Cathrine, Douglas, Andreas, Susi, myself, and Masashi. Kampai!

Back at home now, and I have a Japanese boat models display next month in Japantown, ship model meetings, and ship modeling projects waiting for me – It’s time to get serious about ship modeling! Ω




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