Monday, March 8, 2010

Traditional Boats of the Pacific Northwest Conference

Last weekend was the First Annual Small Boat Conference hosted by the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon.

Sam Johnson, Executive Director of the Museum organized this conference to develop a list of traditional boat types of the Pacific Northwest Coast of the US. The region is broadly defined as extending from Alaska south to Northern California and east to the borders of Oregon and Washington.
Boat types will include native craft, recreational boats and work boats to 120 feet.

The first conference strove to identify and develop strategies for the documentation and protection of these historical craft.

We heard from James Cole, Chief Estimator with the Elliot Bay Design Group, on the Evolution of the Fishing Vessels of the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Alaska.

Bob Chenoweth, curator of the Nez Perce National Historical Park in Spalding Idaho spoke of his research on the Dugout Canoes of the Columbia Plateau.

Tom Croteau, Maritime Program Coordinator for the HAER Maritime Program of the National Park Service talked about his experience documenting historical vessels using laser total station digital surveying techniques (imagine laying down the lines of a 50 foot boat in four hours!).

With some time left at the end of the day, conference participant and skin kayak guru Harvey Golden was asked to give a presentation on the evolution of the skin-on-frame kayak, which included a sneak preview of his work on an upcoming book about these highly evolved arctic hunting vessels. (Harvey tells me he has 46 kayaks he's built, in his living room).

At the close of the conference, the consensus was that the first step in documenting existing historical boats was to compile a list from the community at large.

Everyone is encouraged to provide photographs and anecdotal information about boats they may know of. While the owner's permission is required for a survey, anyone can nominate a boat for consideration.

The old traditional boats of the Pacific Northwest are fast disappearing. There have been many fine craft designed specifically for Northwest waters and built in prestigious local boat yards, but little attention has been given to documenting them for posterity. Once the list begins to develop, a strategy for documentation and preservation will be implemented.

In cooperation with other maritime organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest, The Columbia River Maritime Museum is looking for information about the traditional boats of the region. Of interest are boats of all types, in any condition. The location of models, plans, photos or other information is also of interest. This information will be used to develop strategies for the documentation and preservation of an important maritime heritage that is rapidly being lost.

Please help if you can. Call the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon and ask for Sam Johnson or Jeff Smith (503-325-2323) or e-mail the Museum:


Richard said...

Thanks for the info on this.. It sounds like a place I must visit the next time I head for Sequim Wash. Thought you might add the link

doryman said...

The Museum in Astoria has a lot to offer, I would highly recommend a visit. Their web page offers a link to the web cam on their roof, looking at the Columbia River, which is a lot of fun...
Folks who might want to contribute to the documentation of historical vessels should respond as the Museum has requested:
Call the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon and ask for Sam Johnson or Jeff Smith (503-325-2323) or e-mail the Museum:
For people who are curious about the Museum's collection, please visit as Richard suggests.