Fans of wooden boats will be converging on Homer this weekend for the 21st annual Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Festival. The festival is a place where novice boat-builders, aficionados and kids interested in toy boats can all get together with the experts.
Dave Seaman is perhaps Homer’s most prolific builder of wooden boats. He was a founding member of the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society and has been the group’s president for the last several years.
"I got here in 1976 and moved right across the bay," said Seaman. "That's how I got into boats. My first one ... I built on MacDonald Spit in a chicken coop. It's still in my yard but ... I'm not very proud of it."
It wasn’t long before Seaman was building boats he was proud of – proud enough to start a business – Seaman Boats.
Seaman was there back in 1991 when the first “unofficial” Wooden Boat Festival was held. He says it’s been fun to see the growth of the festival over the years, especially since many wooden boats have long since been replaced with vessels made from aluminum, fiberglass or plastic.
He says the theme of this year’s boat festival – Year of the Kayak – gets back to Homer’s roots.
"It's our indigenous boat here," he said. "Other boat festivals in other places have schooners that were famous in their area ... this is a little more our boat."
The society has put the spotlight on kayaks this year by bringing up Corey Freedman as its keynote speaker. Freedman is a renowned kayak maker and operator of the Skin Boat School in Anacortes, Washington.
Festival organizer Lindianne Sarno says Freedman will be doing much more this weekend than just delivering Friday’s keynote address. He'll also be building a kayak at the festival site on the Spit.
Festival-goers will not only get to see master craftsmen like Freedman and Seaman at work – Sarno says folks will also be able to get out on the water in kayaks and umiaks, to get a taste of what these unique vessels are really like.
"Really, that's our main mission ... to bring together people who want to learn about wooden boats and kayaks and canoes together with the people who build them," said Sarno.
Other events this weekend include toy boat-building for kids, a Saturday night auction at Alice’s Champagne Palace and a group paddle of the proposed Kachemak Bay Water Trail.
Dave Seaman says the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Festival has continued to grow and improve over the years, sometimes taking lessons from other boat festivals in places like British Columbia and Washington State, where small towns have found an identity with wooden boats.
The Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Festival continues from Thursday through Sunday this weekend. All events are free. For a full schedule, visit the Wooden Boat Society’s website at kbwbs.org.