2016-09-08 / Front Page

Expanded Wooden Boat Show Promises Nautical Lovefest

By Betsy Sherman Walker


The Newport Wooden Boat Show at Bowen's Wharf is a new expansion of a citywide event which encompasses over half a mile of Newport waterfront. There is no admission charge to view or board the array of wooden boats in the water at Bowen's Ferry Landing marina. The Newport Wooden Boat Show at Bowen's Wharf is a new expansion of a citywide event which encompasses over half a mile of Newport waterfront. There is no admission charge to view or board the array of wooden boats in the water at Bowen's Ferry Landing marina. When the 46th annual Newport International Boat Show gets underway on Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Newport Yachting Center, it promises to attract the usual throngs of boat owners and owner-wannabes who will gather– through Sunday, Sept. 18– to shop, browse, ogle, admire and dream. With more than 600 exhibitors expected this year, a spectrum of boats, along with every boat accessory, gizmo and gadget imaginable, will be on display. Put simply, there is always something for everyone.

And this year, for lovers and scholars of wooden boats, there will be more to see and appreciate.

Specifically, at the Newport Wooden Boat Show, a revamp for the display of wooden boats docked at Bowen’s Wharf, which has been tucked in alongside the big boats– but never failing to attract a loyal following of classic boat enthusiasts. It is being promoted under the banner of a “Four-Day Celebration of Wooden Boats.”


Bowen’s Wharf will be brimming with vessels people can view for free at the Newport Wooden Boat Show, Sept. 15 through 18. Bowen’s Wharf will be brimming with vessels people can view for free at the Newport Wooden Boat Show, Sept. 15 through 18. There is no hyperbole here: The term “celebration” seems well-deserved. The show, along with the addition of two events guaranteed to please the most ardent devotee, will go a long way toward satisfying fans of boats, either power or sail, made– simply and beautifully– of wood. And it may just draw in a few converts.

For the past seven years, Bowen’s

Wharf, according to president Bart Dunbar, has offered up its docking space as an extension of the show, reserved for the local boatbuilding industry. “Hinckley, Hunt, Pease Boat Works, and the Landing School,” Dunbar says, naming many of the New England pedigrees. “This partnership will continue.”

This year, the revived Newport Wooden Boat Show will launch with an opening night party on Thursday, Sept. 15, from 6-7:30 p.m., hosted by Seamen’s Church Institute, featuring “Wood, Wind & Water: The Genius of Chatham’s F. Spaulding Dunbar,” a collection of drawings that belong to the permanent Hart Nautical Collection at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s museum. F. Spaulding Dunbar is Bart Dunbar’s father.

For boat purists of the hands-on, hand-hewn timber variety, the drawings will provide an additional window into the design of a sailboat. It’s not all nautical doodles and sketches: What is needed is an artist who can also understand what makes a boat go– and where– when the wind blows.

“F. Spaulding is appreciated for the detail in his designs,” says Bowen’s Wharf Marketing Director Trixie Wadson. “His cruising boats are filled with little details. Since he did so much sailing himself, the degree of detail that went into the designs is what made his drawings appeal to MIT.”

Wadson explains that, while most designers “create the design but leave many details to the builders, the Hart Collection views the Dunbar designs as a bridge between Herreshoff (with model making) and the computer-assisted designs today.”

Also new this year down on Bowen’s Wharf is an expansion to the dock area – 600 additional feet of floating dock at 1 Bowen’s Landing (which locals might recognize as the address for the old Newport Ferry Landing). All boats in-water will be available for boarding, including the handicapped accessible 36’ Pilar, a replica of Ernest Hemingway’s famed 1934 sport-fishing boat.

Yet boats will not only be there for show; some will be there for sale. “The show in Mystic [the Wooden Boat show, now in its 25th year] is aimed at wooden boat aficionados,” Wadson explains. “We’re aimed at people interested in boating. Most people will be surprised with the boats they will see,” she adds, “and we hope they will fall in love and buy one!”

Whether for sale or vicarious viewing, Wadson can recite an impressive inventory that will be tethered to the docks: a 39-foot tethered to the docks: a 39-foot Concordia yawl from Dartmouth, Massachusetts; a 22-foot Catboat from Arey’s Pond in South Orleans, Massachusetts; a 16-foot Beetle Cat from Newport’s IYRS; and the 85- foot Enticer from McMillen Yachts in Newport.

“There is a huge industry in restoration in Europe,” Wadson explains. “Enticer is a great example of that kind of work. Earl [McMillen] has personally pioneered the purchase and restoration of a number of wooden powerboats.” There will also be yachts from Herreshoff Yacht Sales and Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol. Featured on land will be live-edge timber from Newport Nautical Timbers in Bristol.

The standout of the exhibition at Seamen’s, says Wadson, is Ocean Pearl. “It is the culmination of F. Spaulding’s shoal-draft, offshore, cruising ketches,” she explains. She also mentions drawings for Catabout and Whistler, “boats that were created directly for sailing in Chatham, which makes them pretty special.”

For those in the water: “Pease Boat Works & Marine Railway in Chatham [which took over the Dunbar family boatyard] has built some of the most beautiful boats coming out of the Cape. First Light is wood, but a modern-built wood boat. We are excited that the Herreshoff Museum

[in Bristol] is involved, and the affiliated brokerage, as we are that Concordia [in Dartmouth, Massachusetts] is sending Captiva, one of their famous yawls.”

Tying it all together on Saturday, Sept. 17, will be the screening, at 7 p.m. at the Jane Pickens Theater, of “Wood/Sails/Dreams,” a look at the resurgent fascination with wooden boats.

Wadson sees all this creative collaboration – from designs to narratives to the actual boats – as key in bringing a more prominent foothold to the industry of wooden boats. “It is really important,” she adds, “for the number of firms in New England that build beautiful boats from scratch, and those that restore them, that they can show their products to the general boat-buying population and the brokerage boat show.

“This show,” she says, “is an important part of the marketplace.”

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