Classic boat show celebrates history of vessels, 175th anniversary of Gig Harbor’s exploration

The sound is what Jim Whitehouse likes about classic boats.

“It’s so quiet,” he said. “I think that’s the beauty.”

He gave visitors to the fourth annual Classic Boat Show at the Tides Tavern on Saturday rides around Gig Harbor in a 1927 fishing boat with a 1 horsepower engine.

Whitehouse was one of about a dozen people available to talk about the history of classic vessels at the show, and on Sunday visitors also will learn some Gig Harbor history.

At noon, a crew will use a 26-foot replica of the boat that first charted Gig Harbor to re-enact the 175th anniversary of the expedition that discovered the city.

An expedition led by Captain Charles Wilkes first arrived in the harbor in 1841.

“The BoatShop has a boat called the Porpoise, a longboat, and they are going to be rowing it from the mouth of the harbor to the Tides Tavern with a crew in full regalia, full costumes, and they’ll do a loop in front of the Tides Tavern and then end up back on our docks,” Tides Tavern marketing manager Michael McManus said.

It’s not the first time the trip has been re-enacted. A similar event happened in 1989.

“Some of those folks have even returned to do this re-enactment again,” McManus said.

The Classic Boat Show continues 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, but those who want to see the re-enactment have only a short window to do so. It starts at noon, and could be as quick as 15 minutes, McManus said.

But it should be easy to spot.

“There’s going to be a lot of vantage points,” he said. “From Old Ferry (Landing) to Maritime Pier.”

While waiting, visitors can peruse the 12 classic boats on display for the free show at the Tides Tavern, at 2925 Harborview Dr. NW. The vessels date from the 1920s through the 1960s.

Some are owned by individuals. Others, such as the Porpoise, are owned and operated by the Gig Harbor BoatShop, which is helping put on the event.

The 16-foot Whitehouse giving rides on Saturday is a BoatShop vessel.

Volunteers who restored it put fiberglass around the hull, “to give it 10, 20 more years of life,” he said.

One of the newest of the BoatShop’s fleet, the Gaylynn, was also on display.

It was built in the early 1940s by 19-year-old Lee Caldwell as a South Kitsap High School shop project. And, at the age of 94, Caldwell was the one who christened the restored boat in September.

BoatShop volunteers swapped out the gas motor for an electric one, added a center deck and made other improvements to the 16-foot cedar boat.

“We use mostly hand tools,” said volunteer Larry McAlee, who was on hand to answer questions. “A lot of wood planes. You have to learn some actual boat-building skills.”

And that takes time.

“This was about a year’s worth of Saturdays to get it to this shape,” he said.

Visitor Ed Zeff happened upon the show as he strolled through Gig Harbor Saturday, and said he might check out the re-enactment Sunday, depending on the crowds.

But if he gets into boating, which he said he’d like to, his vessel will be somewhat newer than the Porpoise and the other classic boats.

“These are pretty labor-intensive,” he said.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell