I grew up on the water in my family’s power boats cruising the Columbia River, Pacific Ocean and beautiful San Juan Islands of Washington State. Other than owning one steel boat (26’ Steelcraft), all of my family’s boats were beautiful wooden vessels – Chris Craft, Richardson, Tollycraft and others.
We would go for day cruises and overnighters on the River, and would spend 2 weeks in the San Juan Islands in the summer. I have wonderful memories of those days! I loved to be outdoors, to swim and just liked being on the water. I was introduced to rough water at an early age as we would frequently cross the “bar” at the mouth of the Columbia River while salmon fishing, and also while cruising on our 38’ twin screw Richardson yacht up the outside of the Washington coast to the San Juan’s and back. I even learned to braid rope for various mooring lines my dad wanted for our boats!
I also began working with my hands at a young age, including knitting (seriously), woodworking, messing with cars (my dad was in the car business), and riding bikes and motorcycles. One of my first “serious” woodworking projects was building a wooden lounge chair out of plywood and 1×4’s and covering with carpet.
At Columbia River High School I studied woodworking each year and built wooden items such as a gun rack, a desk lamp, a slalom water ski, and an 8’ wooden pram (my first boat). If I could make it with my hands, I was “a happy camper”. There is something magical about taking assorted pieces of wood and shaping and assembling them into something functional and beautiful And I wasn’t hung up on perfection – as long as it looked “decent” I was satisfied.
During my college days in Missouri, I took a sailing class with my roommate and learned to sail a small 12’ sloop on Springfield Lake. I was instantly hooked on the challenge, magic, and quietness of sailing. After moving to the Seattle area in 1977, I bought my first boat – a 14’ C-Lark racing class boat (yes it was fiberglass – it kills me to say that word, hahahah). I would sail her on Lake Washington, and tow her to other small lakes. I loved to hike out in strong winds (she had hiking straps) and feel the boat power through the water.
After college I married my lovely wife and we began having children (five boys all together!). In the early 90’s I was looking for a serious woodworking project to sink my teeth into. I had subscribed to Wooden Boat Magazine and began attending the Wooden Boat Festival at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle, WA. My interest in boatbuilding took me to the local library where I picked up The Dory Book by John Gardner. As I read through Gardner’s book, I became intrigued with the history, simplicity, versatility, and timeless lines of the dory.
I plied through all the various models offered in the book and settled on building the 14’-2” semi-dory. This boat could be sailed, motored (small outboard), or rowed. It was small enough so I could easily launch and use it by myself, yet seaworthy enough to take into the waters of Puget Sound on “calm” days.
Even though the book was geared toward the traditional construction methods (copper fastened solid wood lapstrake planking), I chose to use the more modern building technique of epoxy and glass coated Okoume marine plywood for the strakes. After five years of labor (guestimate of 400 hours) and about $2,000, the boat was complete. She has performed beautifully since I finished her in 1997, and I still use her to this day (although she needs a refinish and I never finished the sail rig – but that’s another story).
After completing this five year project, I was totally HOOKED on building and using wooden boats! My next boat was a kit kayak from CLC Boats (Mill Creek 16.5), next was my “baby” skin-on-frame Greenland kayak (weighed 25 pounds), then a 12’ lapstrake canoe (from The Canoe Shop book), and I have just started buiding a SCAMP sailboat (11’ 11” microcruiser) from a kit.
I discovered podcasting through my son Josh in 2009 and began listening to a variety of shows during my work commute. I enjoyed podcasting so much that I determined to start my own weekly podcast show. But what would I podcast about? Through an online podcasting class taught by my good friend Cliff Ravenscraft, I landed on the podcasting topic I am most passionate about – WOODEN BOATS!
Since September of 2011, I have enjoyed publishing one wooden boat podcast every week. I have met scores of amazing people, and am having the time of my life learning more about wooden boats, and the fascinating people behind them.
Wooden Boat Dan
PS Get in the Wooden Boat Game!