In 1993 Marci van Cleve, a teacher at Chimacum School had the idea of doing an Outward Bound style, on-the-water program in Jefferson County.
At that time the Wooden Boat Foundation had just commissioned a replica of George Vancouver’s longboat. It was built locally at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. Captains Wayne Chimenti and Al Nejmah helped launch this program with Marci. Teens from the local schools were off and sailing, and getting credits for it – Puget Sound Explorers was born.
14 years later, during a particularly nasty Journey, Captain MB Armstrong, Wayne, and Marci were huddled around the campfire and said, “We need better boats. We need something that sails better, rows better, is lighter, and beachable.” Marci said, “And we should build them with students! You come up with a design and I’ll set up the class.” This was May 2007.
When we began the search for a design, we ran into local boat maven Kit Africa. He said, “You know Jim Franken and I designed a big Oceanic Dory for Mick Bird to row solo around the world. That would be all the things you want and easy to build.” The design was found. Now, a builder to guide the students. That was mid-August. “We had no money, no boatbuilder, no shop, and one month until school started. What could go wrong?”
The critical moment was when we presented this to the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding’s board,
Wayne remembers.“As soon as I finished telling them our idea, Jeff Hammond the lead instructor jumped up and said, ‘Heck, I’ll loft that boat for you!’ Then Bill Mahler the executive director said, ‘I can’t see why anyone, given the chance to do this would say ‘No’. And the board chimed in, ‘If Jeff and Bill are in, We’re In!’. At that moment I knew a dream was launched.”
Now money and materials.
Local businesses and individuals stepped forward with wood, sailcloth, glues and screws, as well as cash, to keep the project moving forward. A small grant from the Satterberg Foundation clinched the deal.
At that time, we decided to form our own non-profit, Puget Sound Voyaging Society. We moved from Port Townsend to Lower Hadlock. Our boatbuilding shop at the NW School of Wooden Boatbuilding Campus and “Voyaging” from the Hadlock Marina.
The Boats: During the 2008-2009 school year our first “Longdory” Journeyman was build. It was 24’ long, and fulfilled many of our desires, but it was a bit too small. The next year 2009-10, we stretched that out to Onward 28’, under the watchful eye of Master Boatbuilder Ray Speck. That was so nice we decided to build another – Dragonheart, to serve more youth.
In 2012, local design genius Ed Louchard was out on the Dragonheart with his daughter, and said “these boats are great but…” and gave a long list of improvements. So we said, “Well, Ed why don’t you design us a new one?” He did. Again, with Ray Speck and high schoolers we built the schooner Epic. 33 feet of Voyaging perfection. See Our Boats Page for more about our craft and where they are now.
Meanwhile and interesting and unexpected thing happened. Lots of people began showing up at the shop to help. Most saying, “I’m not a boat builder but I want to be here and work with the kids.” There were amazing people from all professions, and so we let them do what they did best, artwork, designers, guitar makers, wood carvers, well just about anything. We’d often have 5 diverse projects going at once. And students would gravitate to the project or mentor they liked best. Education driven by passion to learn.
Shelter from the Storm: In 2017, we decided to try to build a Tiny House. That really got the youth going – they loved it. Slowly we ended up make more Tiny Houses than boats. The world really doesn’t need another boat, but it sure needs housing. We have partnered with several local and state organizations to place these tiny houses where they will be of use and service in the fight against homelessness. See our Community Builders Shop and Shelter From the Storm pages for more about what we build, how and why.
We also realized that teenagers are not the only ones who could benefit from learning basic building and life skills. So we expanded our programs to included a paid internship for young adults. This program we hope will help bridge the post-education gap and help these young community members find their feet in life and work.
As of 2023 we have built over 15 tiny houses and similar shelters with students, interns and volunteers.
The real strength of our organization, we found, is in our ability to listen to our target audience and to be flexible as opportunities arise. Now we build tiny houses, restore small boats, Journey the sound, and continue to beautify the world.
Students at CBP not only learn with their heads, but their hands, meanwhile they meet and work one on one with mentors and elders of the community. Together they are creating usable gifts for the community.
Due to these changes the Community Boat Project is in the process of rebranding. We are bringing the nautical concepts of teamwork and crew to bear on living in a community. See our Philosophy page for more about what drives us.
After all, what is the Earth, but a ship sailing through space. When the storm comes it’s all hands on deck, hauling together.