In the shop area that faces the Harbor History Museum, a gathering of about a dozen people swarmed around raw wood and plywood last April. Dressed in everything from coveralls to warm jackets, the onlookers watched at the wood was stitched and glued together to form lightweight boats identified as prams or skiffs.
Katie Walters and her son, Tom, of Silverdale had been working on their craft on Saturdays and had reached the stage where the stitching was judged to be in order. They were laying a coat of leak-proof glue along the seams.
“The Sam Devlin skiff is a great project,” they said.
The project is under the guidance of shipwright Nate Slater of Lakebay, who also is in charge of the Harbor History Museum’s restoration of the Shenandoah, a purse seiner fishing boat. Slater’s fellow boat guru, Doyle Lewellen of Vaughn, lent his knowledge and muscle to help the other boat builders successfully accomplish their goals.
Slater hoisted one of the almost completed prams to demonstrate that it could be moved by one person with relative ease.
“Our family is having so much fun working with Nate and Doyle,” Katie Walters said. “We have a family membership with the Harbor History Museum and first heard about the classes in the museum’s e-newsletter. I gave the classes to my husband as a Christmas gift, and we’ve all gotten a chance to work on the boat. We are learning new skills and working together as a team to build the skiff.”
She named her entire family — David, Katie, Andrew, Tom and Ben — and said they’ve all participated in the skiff-building project.
Others involved in the April program were Peter Stanley of Gig Harbor and his son-in-law, Nick Lowery of Seattle, and Bret Anderson of Olympia. They and the Walters family took their boats away weeks ago.
Earlier this month, Slater and Lewellen guided another group of builders, including Kevin and Deb Ryan of Olympia, Gary Kellogg from Gig Harbor and Joe Uhlman of Olympia
Uhlman said he plans to use the pram in waters around Olympia and the Tacoma Narrows to fish for salmon and cutthroat.
“I love fishing cutthroat,” Uhlman said. “It builds my ego.”
Kellogg and Lewellen trimmed a skeg for Kellogg’s pram. They demonstrated how it fits on the bottom stern to keep it from swirling in the waters, rather like an immovable rudder.
Slater said a scarf is the joining of two pieces of quarter-inch plywood over a 2-inch, hand-planed angle.
“The two pieces make an almost undetectable seam in an eight-to-one scarf, in which the length is eight times the thickness of the quarter-inch plywood,” he said.
For more information about the enterprise, call the Harbor History Museum at 253-858-6722.Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@ centurytel.net.