Boatbuilder’s ‘labor of love’ finally sets sail after 18 years or work
The 40th annual Wooden Boat Fair this weekend includes the debut of what you might call a dreamboat — a craft that’s a dream come true.
That boat is America, a 30-foot sailboat hand built by Tom Crout of South Hill in Pierce County.
“I’ve always been into wooden boats,” he told The Olympian. “I’d wanted to build one since I was a little kid, and I finally decided to do it.”
Launched in July at Swantown Marina, the boat already has made a splash among members of the Olympia Wooden Boat Association, who named it this year’s featured boat.
“We like to feature something different or something with a good story behind it,” co-dockmaster Kevin Gordham told The Olympian.
Though it looks like a classic, America, which lives at the Swantown, is the youngest craft in this year’s fair, which celebrates wooden boats of all kinds and sizes and fills the boardwalk with vendors, live music and crowds of 5,000 to 10,000 people.
“It’s very weather related,” Gordham said. “This year, I think we’re going to have a ton of people.”
Forecasters expect sunny skies and the high temperature to reach into the upper 80s on Saturday and upper 70s on Sunday.
This year’s fair will host about 25 boats. That’s not as many as in some years, Gordham said, but the docks will be full because 10 of them measure 40 feet or more.
Among the biggies are:
• The Sea Scout Ship Odyssey, a 90-footer with a long and colorful history;
• The Riptide, a 53-foot yacht built in 1938 and featured on the ’80s TV show of that name;
• Two 1940s Lake Union Dreamboats, a style of yacht pioneered by Lake Union Dry Dock in Seattle. The yachts are the Marian II, owned by Diane Lander, the festival’s maritime person of the year, and the Winifred, built for Adolph and Winifred Schmidt of Tumwater Brewery fame.
America is pretty sizeable, too; though its hull is 30 feet long, it has an 8-foot retractable bowsprit and a 2-foot rudder.
And though in nautical terms the craft is just a baby, Crout already has spent 19 years with his beloved boat, the first 18 of them building it in a shed outside his home.
He tended to every detail, finding old-growth Douglas fir for the hull, riveting thousands of planks to the craft’s ribs, and casting the bronze fittings. He crafted the boat’s keel, or backbone, from a 30-foot-long railroad trestle beam.
“You name it, I did it,” Crout said when he launched the boat in July. “The only thing I didn’t do was grow the trees, and God did that.”
While this will be America’s first boat fair, Crout has been a regular at wooden-boat celebrations around the region.
“For the last 30 years, I’ve always gone to wooden boat festivals in Port Townsend and Olympia and Tacoma,” he said. “I’ve always been the person looking at the boats.”
This turn of the tides is, he added, “quite an honor.”
Wooden Boat Fair
- What: The Olympia Wooden Boat Association’s 40th annual fair gives boat owners a chance to show off their prized possessions. The fair is also well-known for its volume of vendors, and it offers live entertainment and a chance for kids to build their own wooden boats.
- When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Percival Landing Park, 217 Thurston Ave. NW, Olympia
- More information: olywoodenboat.org
- 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (or while supplies last): Boat building for kids.
- Noon: The Aspirations (Aspire School’s jazz band)
- 2 p.m.: Blue Pickup (blues)
- 3:30 p.m.: Tumwater High School Jazz Ensemble
- 5 p.m.: Black Hills High School Jazz Band
- Noon: Olympia Highlanders Drum and Bagpipe Marching Band
- 1 p.m.: Slieveloughane Irish Dancers
- 2:15 p.m.: Timberline High School Jazz Band
- 3:30 p.m.: Cool Breeze Trio (original songs from the sea)