Arts and Entertainment

Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival pairs boat building with community

Above, the Querencia cruises along the waters of the Puget Sound. Owner Tom Hudson and the Bainbridge Island Historical Society will be part of the Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival June 4 and 5.  - Tom Hudson
Above, the Querencia cruises along the waters of the Puget Sound. Owner Tom Hudson and the Bainbridge Island Historical Society will be part of the Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival June 4 and 5.
— image credit: Tom Hudson

The Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival is already a success.

No, it hasn’t raised a lot of money. Admission to this weekend’s festival is free. It doesn’t boast out-of-town experts or iconic boats. The speakers’ forum will feature locals sharing stories about their own boats with exotic home ports like Eagle Harbor and Port Madison.

The first-ever Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival has already accomplished the mission its founder Bob Schoonmaker set: To bring the boating community together around a common passion.

“We have folks here who have lived on the island for 20-some years who share the same passion for something, but had never met,” Schoonmaker said.

Until now, that is.

The phrase “building community” is more often heard among granola-munchers and civic types, but the yacht club? Isn’t exclusivity part of its schtick?

“I’m focusing on this to help people understand that you don’t have to be rich to own a boat,” Schoonmaker said from The Chandlery Marine at Winslow Wharf, the nautical supply store he opened as another way to empower and offer advice to boaters and aspiring boaters. He makes more money delivering yachts all over the world, such as the one he’s on contract to sail 4,000 miles from Arigataya, Japan to Australia, just as soon as the local Boat Festival has been succesfully docked.

“First and foremost it’s a party for those who love wooden boats,” Schoonmaker, aka “Cap’n Bob,” said. In fact, his original idea was to call it a celebration, but in the community spirit, he assembled a committee to create the event, which promptly outvoted him, preferring the term “festival.”

Instead of hiring big-name experts, the Bainbridge Wooden Boat Festival will feature neighbors, islanders who own boats and some who have even built their own.

For instance, Tom Hudson will bring the Querencia back from Port Townsend after he and an eight-man crew — all from Bainbridge — raced in the Swiftsure International  Race last weekend through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

He spied an ad for the 1954 Sparkman and Stevens boat in Wooden Boat Magazine. The boat had been abandoned on a dock in Sausalito, Calif. The boat had no sails, no engine, and the decks leaked from a fire set by vagrants living aboard the neglected vessel.

“But the bones of the boat were excellent,” Hudson said. It had lovely bronze framework. The hull was built of teak.

After about 18 months of “rejuventation” — including rebuilding the house and removing, then replacing, the entire deck — the Querencia was back in the water on the 47th parallel.

Querencia, a romantic name derived from bullfighting for the sanctuary, or place in the ring in which the bull draws his courage, has won Best in Show from the Victoria Classic in 2005 and 2007.

Another of the 30-plus boats that will be on display is the Dolores M. Jackson, whose epic boatbuilding saga has been chronicled twice in the Review.

Roy Jackson was 43 years old when he paid $1,000 for a set of plans for a 43-foot, double-masted schooner. It took Jackson 30 years to complete it, just in time for his wife Dolores, the boat’s namesake, to join him on the maiden voyage out of Eagle Harbor.

The Bainbridge Island Historical Society will go back even further in time, sharing the island’s maritime history when its deepwater ports and wooded hillsides became the site of the world’s largest sawmill.

For more information, visit


If it floats your boat

The Bainbridge Island Wooden Boat Festival runs June 4-5 at Harbour Marina on Bainbridge. Learn more about the island’s maritime history, tour boats, listen to music and a speakers’ forum, enjoy lively maritime lore among a 30-plus fleet of sail, power and workboats.

Admission is free.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call the Chandlery at 842-7245.


The poster mystique

No wonder Schoonmaker said the posters have turned up missing after being posted around town. The striking image was shot by award-winning photographer and Bainbridge resident Neil Rabinowitz, whose marine photography has graced countless boating magazine covers and spreads.

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