In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 3:02 PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wooden boat festival 'a tremendous amount of fun'

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


Photo by Lindsay Johnson, Homer News

Wooden boat fans try out the Smolt at last year's Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Festival.

Since its start in May 1993, the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Festival has moved around not only in time but in place, from early May next to the General Store on the Homer Spit to early September behind Pier One Theatre, its current location. With all the moves, though, anyone who's forgotten the boat festival's spot won't have to work hard to find it.

Just listen.

Next Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8 and 9, the cacophony of dozens of kids making small wooden boats will guide mariners and wooden boat lovers to the highlight of the festival, the wooden boat show. The idea of cutting up some model boat parts and letting children — and their adult assistants — go to town with tools and paint has proven to be a big draw. Warmed by a big cast-iron stove and under the protection of a skookum shelter, the festival boat yard is just one heck of a good time.

"It turned out to be one of the most popular things in the history of human events," said Glenn Caldwell, one of the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society founding members and this year's keynote speaker.

The boat festival itself starts out with another enduring event, "Sea Chanteys, Tall Tales and Fisher Poets," starting at 7 p.m. Sept. 6, Thursday, at the Salty Dawg on the Spit.

"Anyone who wants to talk and tell stories, they're welcome to jump up there," said Dave Seaman, current president of the wooden boat society, the organization that runs the festival.

On Sept. 7, Friday, Caldwell gives the keynote address, followed by two movies, "The Days of Salmon Traps and Fish Pirates" and "Charlotte," at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. Admission is $5.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, is a live auction and fundraiser for the wooden boat society, followed at 9 p.m. with dancing and music by the Rogues and Wenches, all at Alice's Champagne Palace.

The wooden boat festival started in the winter of 1992-93, the same time as the first Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival also was being organized. Both events premiered in early May 1993. Caldwell said the boat festival began the way most Homer events start, with a couple of people kicking around ideas over a cup of coffee.

"Maybe we ought to ...," he said is how the conversation started. "Maybe we should ...."

"Should" became "will" and "will" became "it did."

Seaman, who builds stitch-and-glue, marine plywood and fiberglass boats, said the boat show will have a good selection of boats big and small.

"You'll have some traditional boats," Seaman said. "We're hoping for kayaks and strip-built canoes."

Boat builders will be around to talk shop and maritime workers will do demonstrations like mending nets, tying knots and casting bronze fittings. On Sunday, boat lovers can take a sail in the Smolt, a Bristol Bay double-ender sailboat, or try out rowboats in the calmer side of the Spit on Mud Bay.

The boat festival isn't just about boats, though, Caldwell said, but the story of Alaska's maritime history and industry.

"We kind of hashed it around a bit, with the idea that there's a great story about the maritimes here as it relates to wooden boats," he said. "If we could somehow assemble the craft and some of the people involved with that, we could tell that story."

It's a story that keeps being told and a festival that caps off the summer well.

"It turns out people showed up and they seemed to be keen on it, so we did it again," Caldwell said. "It was, and still is, a tremendous amount of fun."

Michael Armstrong can be reached at

20th annual Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Festival

Sept. 6-9, Homer Spit and in town

Sept. 6-9

10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. Harbor tours on The Pyro, Mako's Water Taxi, $20 a person. Call 235-9055.

Sept. 6

7 p.m. Sea Chanteys, Tall Tales and fisher poets, Salty Dawg

Sept. 7

7 p.m. Keynote speech by Glenn Caldwell; 8 p.m. Movies, "The Days of Salmon Traps and Fish Pirates" and "Charlotte." Admission, $5. Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center

Sept. 8

10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wooden boat show, behind Pier One Theatre. Kids boat building; knot tying, net mending and bronze casting demonstrations; music, food and espresso; tour of the Waters, a historic World War II tug boat converted to a charter boat; shirts, hats and hoodies for sale; other vendors.

6 p.m. Live auction with Bumppo Bremicker, Alice's Champagne Palace

9 p.m. music and dancing with Rogues and Wenches, Alice's; $5 cover

Sept. 9

10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Wooden boat show continues, behind Pier One Theatre. Row a boat or sail in a Bristol Bay double-ender. Bring your own life vest.

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