PORT TOWNSEND — One of the town’s main attractions is a dead whale named Hope, and no one seems to find this ironic.
in and out, people trade tips on green living while sipping cocktails
on decks overlooking one of Puget Sound’s last surviving waterfront pulp
mills. Much of what’s produced in these
parts is still made by hand — some of this (wood boats) is traditional;
some of it (handblown glass “pleasure products”) decidedly not.
Welcome ashore to Port Townsend, the mischievously cocked eyebrow of Northwest Washington.
a regionally famous, historic seaport where an unofficial civic motto,
emblazoned across T-shirts downtown, boasts: “We’re all here because
we’re not all there.” The locals laugh, but
they own it, embrace it and even roll it down Main Street once a year
in the Great Kinetic Sculpture Race.
are part of the very sandstone foundation. The history-dripping,
Victorian-themed waterfront jewel — which surely will be featured in
some upcoming flick about Steampunk culture
— literally rests on a platform of the past: Its exoskeleton includes
military bases and heavy industry from eras largely extinct.
Yet people here still look with great hope — the concept, not the skeletal whale — to a progressive future powered by the prevailing local passions: the
arts, the natural world and education — all lashed together
by the spirit of exploration that comes with the town’s seafaring
“It attracts creative people,” Jake Beattie, executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center,
says of his adopted hometown. “You don’t accidentally find yourself
living in Port Townsend. There’s a certain drive to exist there that
from a passion of some sort.
“It’s a community that doesn’t just leave people alone. If what you value is engagement, Port Townsend is your spot.”
he thinks, is what has set the town apart from Day One, and especially
since it underwent its own revival/cultural revolution in the Age of
Aquarius, when the same flower-powered energy
that sent youth “back to the land” sent some people to Port Townsend to
get back to the sea.
all that,” says Beattie, 43, who was not alive but has heard tales
told, “is that groovy idea of equality … of giving a damn about a place
that is more about sweat equity than equity
town, also ahead of its time, locals say, in embracing the local gay
community and nurturing a generation of powerful current female civic
and business leaders, has always exuded its
own charisma, and hopes to keep nourishing it. But modern forces,
largely economic, chip, chip away at the town’s salty countenance and,
some say, threaten its very soul.
“The question is, how do we grow respectfully and responsibly?” asks Robert d’Arcy, captain of the foundation for the statuesque Schooner Martha, a 1907 wooden sailing vessel that is now a local icon. “It’s an age-old problem.”
THE CITY, LIKE most everything else around here, was named by George Vancouver after a wig-wearing friend. It literally was born as the place white settlers would stop and check in on the way into
Puget Sound, and today is one of the last working-waterfront towns
in the Northwest. Most tourists won’t notice, but the diversity of
maritime skills on display here daily is remarkable, especially for a
village of its size.
At the local Boat Haven, the ongoing rebuild of the Western Flyer,
a 77-foot wood sardine-fishing boat that served as the scene-setter for
John Steinbeck’s 1951 “The Log From the Sea of Cortez,” is a good
being dismantled and remade, chunk of rot at a time, by a mix of people
and materials that might not exist in any other single port in the
Workers at the Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op do all the work by hand — with the assistance of some not-so-modern
power tools, such as a massive, century-plus-old band saw salvaged from
the yard that built the twice-sunk Flyer in Tacoma in 1937.
New timber for the ship comes from nearby Edensaw Woods,
one of the only places in the country where you can order up some
purple heart, a remarkably dense structural wood from South America, to
lay a keel strip
for a large wooden ship — a mostly lost art.
have a very symbiotic relationship” with the wood company and other
local specialty firms, says woodworker Pete Rust, employing a word often
used to describe PT business and crafts relationships.
Nearby, other workers are building aluminum boats of all sizes at a pair of do-it-all shipyards: ACI Boats,
finishing up two large tourist haulers for delivery in Hawaii,
alongside a long line of other vessels awaiting repairs and reshapings,
and Craftsmen United, which recently repurposed a large oil-rig supply boat bought on the cheap in Louisiana into an Alaska salmon tender.
Oct. 6, 2019 at 7:00 am PORT TOWNSEND — One of the town’s main attractions is a dead whale named Hope, and no one seems to find this ironic. Day in and out, people trade tips on green living while sipping cocktails on decks overlooking one of Puget Sound’s last surviving waterfront pulp mills. Much… Read more »