The Center for Wooden Boats Celebrates its 40th Anniversary

This historic Lake Union gem totally floats our boat

By Haley Durslag


June 15, 2016

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Seattle Magazine.

At The Center for Wooden Boats’ (CWB) annual Wooden Boat Festival, set for Independence Day weekend, July 2–4, explore the nautical education nonprofit’s Lake Union Park home—and help celebrate its 40th anniversary. Turnout has grown more than fivefold since CWB welcomed 3,000 people to its first festival in 1976. “The festival is designed to celebrate our Northwest maritime heritage,” says Mike Luis, CWB’s executive director, “but there’s nothing stuffy about it. Like the rest of our activities[including affordably priced boating lessons, interactive workshops for kids and the free public sails on Sundays], it’s all about participation.”

More than 100 vessels will be on show—many of them open for visitors to board and explore. There will also be opportunities for festivalgoers to try their hand at boatbuilding skills, such as steam-bending wood and making rope; test their knowledge of nautical trivia; and wet their whistles in the beer garden. Toy hydroplane building lessons and the family boat building contest will provide fun ways to get kids involved too.


CWB, which started with a single floating building and a few moorage docks, will celebrate another milestone this year: the opening of its first building on terra firma, located just 250 feet from its current, cramped floating welcome center. The new Wagner Education Center, expected to be completed some time this fall, will feature classrooms and interactive learning spaces to allow for more school field trips, weekend drop-in activities, and adult woodworking and boatbuilding classes. “I have always said CWB is a great place for a cheap date, but it really is much more than that,” says founding director Dick Wagner, for whom the new structure is named. “It is living history. People who come here get the chance to learn about and even use boats they might otherwise never even see.”

Find out more about the Wooden Boat Festival and get updates on the new building at

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