HOWB 041 – Smith’s Boat Shop, 50 years of building wooden boats – interview with Fred & Ron

by admin on June 28, 2012



This week I interviewed Fred Smith and Ron Downs of Smith’s Boat Shop on Samish Island, WA.  Fred and his brother Don built their first boat in 1960 – a 24′ plywood catamaran that could be beached easily on the tide flats in front of their house.  Next they built an 8′ dinghy with plans they bought from US Plywood for 50 cents. Soon the neighbors began noticing the boats Fred and Don had built and started placing orders for 8′, 12′ and 14′ prams that were well suited for fly fishing, duck hunting, rowing, and having a generally good time.  Next the Smith Brothers went to the local sporting goods stores and made deals to sell their boats on consignment.  The Smith Boat Shop was officially born!

Don and Fred built boats together from 1962 until 2003 when Don passed away.  At that time, Ron Downs joined his father in law Fred, and they have continued the tradition of building plywood prams for the last 10 years. Over the years, more than 2000 El Toro’s have been built, along with a multitude of Pelican sailboats, and prams.

If you would like to read a great article on the history of the Smith’s Boat Shop, click here: Smith’s Boat Shop History.

These are beautiful boats that start at $800!  If you are interested, call Ron at 360 766-7667 and place an order. Click on the green player button above to listen to the full interview with Fred and Ron.

Here’s some pics to enjoy (click to enlarge):

Ron (left) and Fred standing in front of their recently built 10' pram at the Smith's Boat Shop.


$850 for this 10' beauty - place your order now!! This is a seriously good deal. A 10' white plastic boat would cost more!


Fred next to Pram mould he built 50 years ago (and still uses) from US Plywood plans he purchased for 50 cents.


This hand saw has been in Fred's shop since before he can remember and is over 100 years old. It has been sharpened so many times, about half the metal is gone. But still works great!


Fred prepares some of the best smoked salmon in the northwest in this home built smoker.


Thanks Ron & Fred for taking time for the interview.  It was a pleasure meeting you and I look forward to seeing you at the August Regatta.  If you would like to contact Ron, you can email him at

UPCOMING FUN EVENTS (tell ’em Wooden Boat Dan sent you!)
May 12 – Seattle Maritime Festival – Seattle, WA
May 12-13 – 33rd Annual Olympia Wooden Boat Fair – Olympia, WA
May 19th – Port Townsend Pocket Yacht 1st Annual Palooza – Port Townsend, WA
June 29 to July 1st – 22nd Annual Wooden Boat Show – Mystic Seaport, CT
June 30 to July 4th – 36th Annual Wooden Boat Festival – Seattle, WA
July 8 – 2nd Annual Wooden Boat Festival at the Willamette Sailing Club – Portland, OR
July 13-15 – 5th Annual Maritime Heritage Festival – St. Helens, OR
August 6-17 – Build Your Own SCAMP microcruiser (360 385-4948) – Port Townsend, WA
August 11 – La Conner Classic Boat and Car Show – La Conner, WA
August 25-26 – 20th Annual Tacoma Maritime Fest – Tacoma, WA
Aug 31 – Sept 2 – 39th Annual Harbor Days – Olympia, WA
September 1-4 – Small Craft Skills Academy – Port Townsend, WA (see website for other locations)
September 2-4 – 34th Annual Victoria Classic Boat Festival – Victoria, BC, Canada
September 3-5 – 11th Annual Wooden Boat Rendezvous – Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, WA
September 7-9  – 36th Annual Wooden Boat Festival – Port Townsend, WA
Note:  If you have events you would like added to the calendar, please email me at

I want to build a community of people from all over the world who want to connect, learn, share stories and photos, and have fun with wooden boats.  I would REALLY appreciate you sending me wooden boats pics, stories, or projects you are working on.  You can also write comments on this blog, email me at, or call my feedback hotline at 424 261-2360.

Click HERE to subscribe to my email news list for the latest and greatest fun stuff and click on one of the buttons below to subscribe to my show. Keep the bright side up and the barnacled side down –  Wooden Boat Dan “over and out”! Subscribe to the Hooked On Wooden Boats Podcast here: Zune iTunes RSS Feed

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