SEATTLE YACHT BUILDING HISTORY
The opening of Seattle's Lake Washington Ship Canal in 1917 started the development on Lake Union of several boat-building yards that for more than 40 years, based on traditional boatbuilding and shipwright methods and materials to produce now-classic sailboats and motor cruisers.
These companies provided well-paying jobs for generations of shipwrights, most of whom learned their trade through apprenticeships and a boat-building school opened by the Seattle school system in 1936.
The supplies of good quality materials, a skilled workforce, and the growth of a middle class sustained the building yards for decades. Mass production of fiberglass boats and skyrocketing wood prices foretold the end for most boat-building yards.
Few companies survived, but their exceptional vessels were built to last and glorious examples of the of well-trained highly skilled shipwright's, some yachts are now nearly a century old, can still be seen in the Pacific Northwest waters.
The forests of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia held seemingly inexhaustible supplies of ideal woods for boat building, including yellow, red, and Port Orford cedar; Douglas fir; Sitka spruce; and Oregon white oak. Honduran mahogany, teak from Asia, ironbark from Australia all were readily available at reasonable cost.
Several factors contributed to the success of Seattle yacht and boatbuilding yards. Local naval architects (self-taught or formally educated) provided skillful designs that determined the overall appearance, performance, and comfort, whether powered by engine or sail.
Notable designers in the early days were Leigh Coolidge (1870-1959), Bill Garden (1918-2011), Ted Geary (1885-1960), and Ed Monk Sr. (1894-1973).