Boatshop Classes & Workshops

photo by Mark Saran

See our shop webcam – there’s always something going on down here!

We offer boatbuilding classes for all abilities in all kinds of watercraft—sailboats, stitch & glue plywood kayaks, Scamps, surfboards, and more—from a number of different companies.

Viking Faering Boatbuilding

July 29 – August 9 | 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM | $950 | Member $855
Taught by Jay Smith. Please note date change from printed Program Guide.

The fjords and channels along the coast of western Norway have been the highways of trade and transport for over two millennia, and the lapstrake færing has played a pivotal role in the lives of thousands of Norwegians through the centuries. Developed and refined even before the Viking Age, these double-enders are known for their elegance and simplicity.

In this course, the emphasis will be on building by eye with traditional hand tools such as axes, drawknives, and spokeshaves. Using plumb bobs and plumb board, students will experience boat building without lofting or moulds. Hand-forged iron rivets, wool yarn, pine tar, treenail fastenings and natural grown crooks will take the student back in time to an era when planks were riven from trees close at hand, iron was a precious resource, and skills were passed orally from one generation to the next.

Join the crew for ten days of hands-on traditional boatbuilding with Viking shipwright and historian, Jay Smith.

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Japanese River Boatbuilding

August 24-28 | 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM | $950 | Member $855
Taught by Douglas Brooks. Please note date change from printed Program Guide.

In this workshop students will work together build one or more boats, based on a traditional Japanese river boat design. The course will provide a thorough introduction to traditional Japanese boatbuilding, introducing students to the unique techniques of Japanese boatbuilding including fitting planks with handsaws, and fastening using both edge-nails and wooden dovetail keys. Other topics include sharpening with waterstones and the adjustment and tuning of Japanese wooden planes.

The boat design is from the Agano River and is a hard chine, canoe-like craft used in the lagoons and estuaries of the river mouth. They are called, locally, itaawase (ita=plank; awase=to put together). Workshop boats will be about sixteen feet long and suitable for paddling by one or two people.

If time permits, students will work on making paddles and/or half models. All the necessary materials and Japanese tools will be provided, but if students own hand tools they may bring a selection to class. The instructor will also discuss the tenets of Japanese apprenticeship. No prior woodworking experience is necessary.

The class will culminate with a traditional Shinto boat launching. The launching will be preceded by a short introduction on Shinto ceremony and will be open to the public.

About the launching:
Shinto is the native religion of Japan, and typically described as anamist. In brief, Shintoism is the ritual worship of a spirit – called the kami – that pervades all things animate and inanimate. Various shrine objects are used, including mochi (rice cakes) and sake (rice wine). Essentially the ceremony is an act of purification: of the boat and even the boatbuilders. A priest can obviously conduct the ceremony but most often these cermonies are led by the boatbuilders themselves. All ceremonies have a local flavor, based on traditions of the region or even an individual town. In some ceremonies a small shrine is placed in the boat. Often this is no more than a mortise in which significant objects are places. Once the boat is in the water it may be rowed in particular motions signifying good luck. After the ceremony often gifts are thrown to spectators, usually candy or small crackers. There can be two ceremonies: a preliminary keel-laying ceremony asking for the safety of the builders and a launching ceremony wishing the new owners good health and prosperity.

About the Instructor:
Douglas Brooks is a boat builder, writer and researcher. He specializes in small boats built to traditional designs and he has taught boatbuilding across the United States and Japan. He has also studied traditional Japanese boat building since 1996, having apprenticed with seven boatbuilders throughout the country. He has written for WoodenBoat magazine, Maritime Life and Traditions, and Classic Boat among other publications. His fourth book, Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, is the first comprehensive survey of the craft published in any language. His work can be seen at his website,

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February in the Boatshop

The month of February was as busy as ever in the shop, too much to effectively shine a light on all of the projects, programs and partners, so I will focus on three. I’ll start with a new program in the shop with the Salish Sea Deaf School. What a wonderful group of students they were! In developing a program for them we decided that it would be key to focus on some fundamental skills they would need to work in the shop and on boats. We only had two hours with the students, but it stretched to nearly three as we were all having such a good time working together. We spent our time learning how to layout to cut a single dovetail joint, then saw and chisel out the waste to complete the joint, culminating in all of the students successfully hand-cutting functional and lovely dovetail joints.

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