Category Archives: Programs

Swiftsure and Shipwright Featured in Ballard News Tribune

Brian Johnson Plank horizontal web

Photo by Shane Harms of Ballard News Tribune

‘A boat builds a community, and a community builds a boat’


Heeling in Time: Swiftsure a beacon in maritime history

Two Ballard News Tribune stories share Swiftsure’s stories and the story, passion, experience and vision for the lightship, a beacon of Lake Union.

Ballard shipwright keeping the trade alive after nearly 40 years (reprinted with permission)

By Shane Harms
Stepping aboard Swiftsure, (Lighthouse No. 83), a 109-year-old Coast Guard Lightship, is like stepping into a floating time capsule slowly undergoing a metamorphic rejuvenation.

Onboard a lone figure is at work fitting 500-year-old Doug Fir deck pieces around the huge smokestack. The shipwright listens to Tango music that riots in the bright-lit canopied dome that protects the Swiftsure from the elements while the deck is restored.

Swiftsure Project Shipwright, Brian Johnson, almost 60, is an inquisitive man. He lives in Ballard, and dances the Tango and is a martial artist. But, mostly, Johnson knows boats.
Johnson has been working with boats all his life. He built his first vessel at the age of five. It sank, but the experience spurred a life long love of boats and an ingenuitive passion for the maritime industry.

Northwest Seaport, owner of the Swiftsure, have asked Johnson to use his shipwright expertise in rebuilding the deck — just one piece in an ongoing restoration puzzle.

“I’m a commercial fishermen and a shipwright — you can’t get anymore Norwegian than that. … I’ve been on and off boats for 40 years either on them breaking them or underneath fixing them,” said Johnson.  read more…

Cover June 26 Ballard News-Tribune Shane HarmsBy Shane Harms

Heeling in Time: Swiftsure a beacon in maritime history

Northwest Seaport, a maritime heritage organization, is restoring a 109–year-old Lightship (No. 83) called Swiftsure.

The Swiftsure is to become a floating museum, and in their effort to revive the ship, they hope to discover the rich, nuanced layers of history the ship contains and also share the lore of bygone days with the public by having them actively participate in the project. Swiftsure is open to the public and floats at the Historic Ships Wharf at Lake Union Park.

According to Nathaniel Howe, the Vessel Manager & Nautical Archeologist for Northwest Seaport, 179 lightships were built between 1820 and 1952, and of those, 17 remain, half of which have become floating museums.

Built in 1904, Swiftsure was first forged in the Carnegie steel furnaces in New Jersey. That same year, America gained control of the Panama Canal and engineers started the daunting challenge of opening the earth for naval passage. Indeed, the Swiftsure was fabricated from an era of unprecedented strides in engineering and industry.  Read more…

President’s Message April 2014

Andrew Bennett Northwest SeaportApril 25, 2014

Dear Northwest Seaport Supporters and Volunteers,

After serving on the Board of Directors for the past five years, I have been given the chance to lead Northwest Seaport for the next two. In this role, I stand on the shoulders of my predecessors and will continue the process of growing the organization that has been underway since I came aboard.

Northwest Seaport 50 Years

Thanks to Joe Shickich, president when I joined the board, we were able to preserve the memories, history, and construction details of the schooner WAWONA. Thanks to our maritime heritage partners, WAWONA artifacts continue to educate people about the importance of our shipping and fishing industries. In addition, the documentation procedures developed by Northwest Seaport have set the standard for other maritime museums around the world that cannot afford to keep all of their historic vessels afloat.

More recently, we have invested over $1M in grants and matching funds to preserve the hull and abate the lead and asbestos on Lightship 83. We have started installing her new deck and are embarking on a capital campaign to complete her restoration. This success has been due in large part to the commitment of Immediate Past President Shannon Fitzgerald. Shannon made sure we got the most from our money and took on the monumental task of completing all the grant paperwork when we lost our project manager.

125 Years Arthur Foss NWS

Over the last year, we have heard from many segments of the maritime industry that there is a need to encourage more young people to consider maritime careers, both at sea and on shore. To help meet this need, we will be integrating job skills training into our restoration and educational programs and promoting opportunities with our industry and heritage partners. Our vision is to be a centrally located, highly visible gateway to maritime careers and, with our partners, provide opportunities for basic training. Being moored just outside the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Lake Union Park, we are also in a great location to showcase the importance of the maritime industry to Seattle’s future, as well as its past.

To bring this vision to life, we will be working with shipyards, vessel operators, and labor to promote the industry to high schools, colleges, and the public at large; with social service agencies and vocational organizations to develop effective educational and training programs; and with the heritage and arts communities to preserve our fleet and bring it to life.

Vigor Seattle MARTIME FESTIVAL logo webI am excited to take the helm for the next leg of Northwest Seaport’s journey and look forward to working with our Board of Directors, staff, and the diverse communities of Seattle to create the place where industry, education, and heritage converge, raising all of our boats. I welcome your suggestions and ideas as we plot our course forward and I look forward to seeing you at our May events, including the Stories of the Sea contest on May 8th and the Maritime Festival on May 10th &11th.

Andy Bennett

President, Northwest Seaport
(View signed letter(pdf): Northwest Seaport Presidents Message April 25 2014)

Northwest Seaport LogoNew slate of officers for Northwest Seaport:

Colleen Browne, Treasurer, retired in 2009 from the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, where she was the Pro Parks Levy/Major Maintenance Manager. As a Capital Projects Manager at Seattle Parks, she was the lead on the Historic Ships Wharf, Lake Union Park, Luna Park, and the multi-million dollar Seattle Aquarium makeover project completed in 2007.

Shannon Fitzgerald, Secretary, is the Manager of the Coordinated Seabird Studies Group at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he has been a biologist and scientist for 23 years.

Jim Flies ,Vice President, is the Quality Systems Manager for Harley Marine Services, Inc.  Previously, he served as the Academic Dean and the Dean of Students at Seattle Preparatory School, where he taught for twenty years.


Lightship Overfalls is Reborn: From a Rust Bucket to a Landmark

Lightship Overfalls WAL539 LV118 Bow Lewes Del

Lightship Overfalls WAL539 LV118 Bow Lewes Del

In 1999 the Lightship Overfalls (LV-118) lay rusting to pieces in a muddy hole in Lewes, Delaware. The community seemingly had lost hope of restoration and attempts to give her away were unsuccessful. Then, a small group of local citizens took ownership of the ailing vessel to save her from the ship breakers. The group put together a comprehensive plan to bring her back from the brink of oblivion. The plan, even with the extensive use of volunteer labor, had a capital budget of $1.2 million and the group had scant resources and no credibility.

The presentation discusses the project’s 13-year history including how the funds were raised and how the group stayed right on budget. Today, the museum ship is an award winning, National Historic Landmark, designated in 2011, and is featured in a park setting worthy of the vessel and the crews who served aboard.

Lightship Overfalls WAL539 LV118 Park Lewes, Del

David Bernheisel, Honorary Board member of the Overfalls Foundation, is a retired Federal employee and a self-proclaimed “life-long river rat.” He has been actively involved in the Overfalls Foundation since 2000, serving on the Board of Directors and in the roles of President, Vice President, and Out-reach Chair. For three years he served as a crew member of Delaware’s tall ship, Kalmar Nyckle, and completed the America’s Great Loop cruise in his own boat. He has also had international assignments with the USAID funded Farmer-to-Farmer program and as an election observer.

The Center for Wooden Boat is co-hosting event and graciously provides their boathouse as the evening’s venue.  Directions

— Lightship Work Party in the afternoon before talk. —

Future USCG Academy Cadet becomes Seaport Member

Megan Rice stands aboard LV83 and in front of a Registered National Historic Place plaque, which states: "Under the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of October 16, 1966, this property possesses exceptional value in commemorating or illustrating American history."

Megan Rice stands aboard LV83 and in front of a Registered National Historic Place plaque, which states: “Under the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of October 16, 1966, this property possesses exceptional value in commemorating or illustrating American history.”

Member Spotlight and Guest Blog:
Megan Rice became a Northwest Seaport member before she even stepped aboard the Lightship No. 83 “Swiftsure.”  Seaport staff welcomed her aboard both the lightship and tug Arthur Foss last week to discuss membership and ways to become involved with Northwest Seaport as a young adult.  During the discussion, she agreed to share her story and goal of serving the country as a naval engineering officer and designer of the Coast Guard cutter fleet.  She also writes, “I only wish I’d found out about NWS a lot sooner.”

Washington State can be proud that she will represent the State and her community at the United States Coast Guard Academy with the graduating class of 2018.

“Hello, I’m Megan Rice and I’m 21 years old.  My interest in engineering, the maritime industry, the U.S. military, and the Coast Guard inspired me to attend the United States Coast Guard Academy, where, as a cadet, I’ll get closer to my goal of serving my country as a naval engineering officer and designer of the Coast Guard cutter fleet.

Megan Rice holds her USCGA acceptance letter with images of USCG Barque Eagle.

Megan Rice holds her USCGA acceptance letter with images of USCG Barque Eagle.

Since my early fascination with the Titanic, I’ve immersed myself in studying ships and the art of integrating many complex systems into one functional, buoyant vessel. This passion has led me to pursue a career in naval architecture and marine engineering.

After diligently contacting over 25 local shipyards and engineering firms without any contacts in the maritime world, I became employed at Jensen Maritime Consultants. At this prominent NA&ME firm, I work in both Continue reading

Picture This: Classic Workboat Show 2013 Photos and Sponsors

Thank You to all the Show sponsors!  With their generous support, this event was a success!  Please join us NEXT YEAR on October 4, 2014 (“First Saturday in October”)  Also, please learn more about our sponsors listed below.

Silver Sponsor,  Jeff Caven of Marine Yacht Photography, captured many Show moments which will become iconic Northwest Seaport images for years to come.  Enjoy some of Jeff’s here…and some from Northwest Seaport during the coming days/weeks.  We’ll continue to add more to this post.  Have some you wish to share?  Email them to info (at) .  Also, post them to Northwest Seaport Facebook page:

NOTE: Images become Northwest Seaport property unless prior arrangements are made, such as with professional photographers.

Show is generously sponsored by the following:

Western Towboat Company logo

Pacific Fishermen Shipyard

Lake Union Drydock Company

Western Towboat Company,
Pacific Fishermen Shipyard,
Lake Union Drydock Company

Vulcan Inc   Port of Seattle   Vigor Industrial   WorkBoat   Global Diving and Salvage

Global Diving and Salvage,
Port of Seattle,
Vigor Industrial,
Vulcan Inc.

Silver48North,The Anchor ProgramAlaska Fisheries Science Center-NOAA,Buca di Beppo–Seattle,  Foss Maritime CompanyFremont Tugboat CompanyHavorn Marine ServiceLAZERQUICK PrintingLighthouse RoastersMarine Yacht Photography, Maritime Pacific Brewing CompanyMaxum PetroleumOcean Trawler Yachts, LLCProfessional MarinerWild Salmon Seafood Market

Classic Workboat Show 2013!

Classic Workboat Show 2013 LogoHistoric and Working Vessels Flood Lake Union Park! 

Lightship No. 83 “Swiftsure” to open to public after one decade…maybe two!

Come aboard and explore working and historic tugboats, fishing boats and workboats. Enjoy an exciting family-oriented day with maritime and marine professionals, demonstrations, fun, food and drink. Visitors are welcome to board vessels, meet crew members, and feel the powerful vibrations of idling marine engines.

Family fun at Northwest Seaport's Classic Workboat Show 2013. The Ross Family is visiting from Oregon! By Jeff Caven

Family fun at Northwest Seaport’s Classic Workboat Show 2013. The Ross Family is visiting from Oregon. By Jeff Caven

Northwest Seaport's Classic Workboat Show Volunteers in the Arthur Foss galley, Jeff Craven

Northwest Seaport’s Classic Workboat Show Volunteers in the Arthur Foss galley, Jeff Caven

Northwest Seaport has also opened the 1904 National Historic Landmark vessel Lightship No. 83 “Swiftsure” for the first time in many years!  Lightship No. 83 is a heritage vessel and museum ship in the middle of an ongoing restoration project. In 1989 the vessel was declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.  Today, we are excited to open the ship to Classic Workboat Show visitors who will enter the ship at the weather deck.  Once aboard, they will see through exposed Carnegie steel deck beams to the hidden lower decks.  Northwest Seaport Nautical Archaeologist and Vessel Manager Nathaniel Howe will provide information on recent restoration efforts at Lake Union Dry Dock Company and plans for the soon to be installed new deck.


With smart phones in hand, visitors can contribute to the ongoing restoration efforts via Northwest Seaport’s online fundraising campaign for Lightship No. 83, akaSwiftsure.  Can’t make it? Consider donating from from the comfort of your own home today. Northwest Seaport relies on the generosity of people like you to stay afloat!

Today’s Classic Workboat Show is an exciting gathering of local Northwest workboats joining the Seaport’s floating fleet at Lake Union Park.  Already, three tugboats (PATRON, HENRIETTA FOSS and Come aboard and explore working, historic tugboats, fishboats and workboats. Enjoy an exciting family-oriented day with maritime and marine professionals, demonstrations, and fun, food and drink. Visitors will be able to board select vessels, meet crew members, and feel the vibrations of idling marine engines during startups.


Maritime and marine programs for the public are conveniently timed throughout the day and include such learning and play opportunities, such as (detailed below)*:


Ship Surveying 101

Workboat Story Time (kids!)

Corking a Ship’s Deck (kids!)

Lightship Boarding (kids!)

Lightship Stamps for Lighthouse Passports (kids!)

Saving Classic Workboats

Marine Research at Sea (kids!) … and much more!


NEW! Northwest Seaport will also OPEN the National Historic Landmark vessel Lightship No. 83 “Swiftsure” for the first time in many years!  The lightship No. 83 “Swiftsure” is a heritage vessel and museum ship, and in 1989 the vessel was declared a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.  On Saturday, Northwest Seaport is excited to open the ship to Classic Workboat Show visitors who will enter the ship at the weather deck.  Once aboard, they will see through exposed CARNEGIE steel deck beams to the lower decks.  Northwest Seaport Nautical Archaeologist and Vessel Manager, Nathaniel Howe, will provide information on recent restoration efforts at Lake Union Drydock Company and the redecking plans.


The Northwest Seaport Classic Workboat Show is generously sponsored by the following sponsors. (continuously updated)


Spring Break on a Tug

Nathan Miller Tug EngineHow did you spend your Spring Break…if you had one?

Nathan Miller, a high school student in the Ballard Maritime Academy at Ballard High School in Seattle and ubber Seaport volunteer choose to fix things while staying aboard Northwest Seaport’s historic tugboat Arthur Foss during the Seaport’s Alternative Spring Break Program. Below, Nathan highlights his stay and the “fix” he made to the tug’s diesel stove, which draws diesel fuel from the same tanks as the engine.  From his own keyboard:

Nathan Miller Tug Stove“During my recent stay on Arthur Foss, my biggest accomplishment was to make the galley stove work. There is much work yet to do, but my efforts during spring break have made it possible to boil water on the stove without bringing the Seattle environmentalists down on us.

The stove “didn’t work” because the fan motor did not run. It is a 120 Volt DC motor which had to be run off the DC generator. We seldom ran it, since the generator would drain the fuel tank before the stove even grew warm. The burner would function properly, being nothing but flaming pool of Diesel, but absent the forced draft it would smoke terribly.  This situation led Adrian Lipp (tug engineer) to forbid the use of the stove without the fan. But the oil stove is one of the most fuel-efficient heaters in existence, and I was determined to have it working for my stay.

Those who have been with the ship longer will remember the days when the galley refrigerator was not serving as a light bulb repository. Hoping to restore it, I stumbled across its former power source: A much-coveted rectifier. Nobody seemed to know that we had this rectifier, despite universal fear of the sketchy-looking box in the engine room with the pegboard cover.

GalleyFollowing this discovery, it was a simple matter to connect the leads from the stove fan into the fuse holders for a test run. Yet, when connected to the “120” VDC circuit, the fan did not run. It took extensive shuffling of the leads and a complete dismantling of the fan motor before I realized that our Harbor Freight voltmeter was doubling the voltage readout. Sure enough, when connected to a “240” VDC circuit, the fan started right up and ran perfectly. Problem solved.

Once again, bacon may be cooked on the oil stove in a comfortably warm galley, with not a wisp of smoke from the stack.”

NOTE: If you know a young person interested in fixing things…have them contact Northwest Seaport.  Alternative Summer Break program opportunities are currently being discussed.  The Seaport also wishes to thank Nathan and his family for all they do for the Seaport and Historic Ships Wharf programs.


Boatwright in Residence Position

Christine Jacobson working aboard the Arthur Foss

Boatwright Apprentice Christine Jacobson working aboard tug Arthur Foss.

South Lake Union Boatwright in Residence –

10 weeks, May-June-July 2013.

Northwest Seaport and The Center for Wooden Boats are teaming up to provide a unique opportunity to hire a recent graduate from a boatbuilding school to work on both historic small craft and historic ships.  The adjacent physical location of these two organizations makes it possible to offer a wide range of experience to the resident, benefitting both the hired employee and the two organizations.

Job Description: The Boatwright in Residence will aid in the care and maintenance of the CWB fleet in the two CWB Boatshops on Lake Union and aboard the tug Arthur Foss working along an experienced shipwright.

Tasks include:
-Assessing and executing repairs in small craft under direction from CWB Boatwright and NWS Shipwright
-Communication with CWB Boatshop Manager and NWS Vessel Manager
-Directing and coaching volunteers to assist with projects
-Sanding, fairing
-Painting, varnishing, and finishing
-Milling, shaping, and installation of wood parts
-Maintaining a clean and efficient shop space

Schedule:Tuesday through Saturday, 40 hours per week

Compensation: $1600 per month, of which $500 is the fair market value of provided housing. NWS will provide resident with a comfortable Officer’s Cabin aboard Arthur Foss located in Lake Union Park. This residency does not include health benefits.

Application Deadline: April 21, 2013.

Boatwright in Residence SLU announcement Spring 2013 (PDF) Application Instructions.

Boatwright program launch related post

Reflections:Winter 2012 Boatwright in Residence


About The Center for Wooden Boats

The Center for Wooden Boats, founded in 1976, provides a gathering place where maritime history comes alive through direct experience and our small craft heritage is enjoyed, preserved, and passed along to future generations. CWB, with locations on Lake Union in Seattle and at Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island, engages visitors in whole body learning by putting the historic boats, oars and paddles, sails and tools in the hands of people who visit.

About Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center

Northwest Seaport, founded in 1964, preserves and interprets the maritime heritage of Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest.  At Seattle’s Lake Union Park Northwest Seaport museum ships, the tugboat Arthur Foss and the Lightship No. 83 Swiftsure, provide a hands-on venue for family education and vocational training programs.  Recent Northwest Seaport events include Gold Rush Tugboats, on-board story time for toddlers, tugboat tours, maritime music and overnight experience programs.


Chantey Sing with Tom Rawson

tom_rawson100x176Friday, April 12th
8:00 pm at Center for Wooden Boats
with Tom Rawson

“I have a banjo and I’m not afraid to use it!”  Tom Rawson is a friendly, banjo-playing folkie who’s guaranteed to have you singing along and will leave you smiling. Tom will pull up his maritime repertoire, some of which can be heard on his two CDs.

Sea Chanteys and other maritime music celebrate our connections to the sea, boats, and those who sail them.  They include work songs and foc’sle ditties with great choruses that tie our present day maritime traditions and lore to those of the past. The call-and-response form makes these songs easy to learn and fun to sing for adults and children alike. Come and lead a song of the sea or just join in on the chorus.

New Northwest Seaport / CWB “Boatwright / Shipwright-in-Residence” a Success

Christine Jacobson working aboard the Arthur FossThe first session of the new Northwest Seaport/Center for Wooden Boats “Boatwright/Shipwright-In-Residence” program has concluded, and both organizations are planning on how to keep the innovative program going.  The joint program was kicked off in the fall of 2012 with Allen Fletcher and Christine Jacobsen, both recent grads of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock, coming to spend a 10-week residency at both organizations.

(Read about Jacobson’s experience aboard Arthur Foss below)

In exchange for a cabin, or berth on a historic tugboat and a small stipend, both budding boat builders got to work on the historic collections of Northwest Seaport and The Center for Wooden Boats. “This had all the components of our ideal program; living and working aboard our ships, pairing youth with experience, restoration through teaching, and close collaboration with our partner organizations,” said Nathaniel Howe, Nautical Archaeologist & Vessel Manager, Northwest Seaport. “It was great exactly what we were going for.”

“The goal was to give new graduates that first on the job experience,” said Kyle Hunter, CWB’s Boatshop Manager. “If we can help those new grads gain experience and benefit from their fresh perspective from school, we both win.”

At Lake Union Park, Jacobson lived on the historic tug Arthur Foss, while working on a wide range of projects.  Here’s her summary of her time as Boatwright-in-Residence with Northwest Seaport (For more about her time as Shipwright in Residence at The Center for Wooden Boats, check out the CWB Blog). 

ABOARD ARTHUR FOSS BY CHRISTINE JACOBSON — When people ask me how I got to a particular place I always respond with, “a long series of poor decisions” and thus I am taking part in the Northwest Seaport and Center for Wooden Boat’s Shipwright in Residence program. I certainly would not call my decision to take part in this program a poor one, even if some of the ones leading up to it weren’t stellar (note to self, always have an escape plan…). The program is ten weeks long with seven weeks spent working at the Center for Wooden Boats and three working on Northwest Seaport’s historic tugboat Arthur Foss.

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