Schooner era returns, briefly, to Poulsbo

The schooner Fiddlers Dream ties up to the Port of Poulsbo tidal grid on May 22. A crane was expected to remove the schooner’s masts later that day. The masts are being replaced.   - Richard D. Oxley / North Kitsap Herald
The schooner Fiddlers Dream ties up to the Port of Poulsbo tidal grid on May 22. A crane was expected to remove the schooner’s masts later that day. The masts are being replaced.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / North Kitsap Herald

POULSBO — The last time a visitor to the Poulsbo waterfront reportedly saw work being done on a schooner here was in 1954, when Pacific Cod Co. schooner C.A. Thayer was retired from service.

“That’s what makes this so special,” said Jonathan Thomas, chairman of the board of directors of the Kitsap Maritime Heritage Foundation.

“We are the first publicly worked on schooner since the ’50s era with the Pacific Cod Co.,” he said.

The schooner, Fiddlers Dream, a floating classroom operated by the Kitsap Maritime Heritage Foundation (, tied up at the Port of Poulsbo’s tidal grid over the afternoon of May 22.

Millican Crane Company of Lofall lifted the two wooden masts off the vessel. Fiddlers Dream used the tidal grid at the port, taking advantage of the high tide to place the vessel close to shore. The crane attached a line to the masts, the rigging on the vessel was removed, and the he masts were pulled up off the vessel and onto a lengthy truck bed nearby.

The City of Poulsbo reserved parking area near the port so the crane could safely lift the masts from the vessel to the transportation vehicle.

Foundation spokesperson Holly James said replacement masts are being fitted out at Kitsap Maritime’s spar barn near Brownsville. Local volunteers, guided by a shipwright, will shape and taper the new masts for proper rigging on the schooner. The new masts are from trees donated by Pope Resources of Poulsbo.

But that’s not all that will be done to the nearly 66-foot schooner. After returning to Brownsville, the interior of the schooner will be remodeled to accommodate 14 bunks. The 26.5-ton boat will motor north to Port Townsend, where it will be pulled out of the water for further maintenance.

“We are looking to do $200,000 worth of refit to the vessel,” Thomas said. “It is less expensive to refit a vessel than to buy a brand new vessel. That would cost us $900,000 to $1.2 million. It was very cost-effective to have a vessel donated to us.”

He added, “When the boat becomes operational, we will do overnight charters to Blake Island and around Bainbridge Island.”

Proceeds from charters support the educational program, which is free for students.

Fiddlers Dream was donated to Kitsap Maritime in December 2013 by Michael Withey of Seattle. It was built in 2006, but based off of 1932 plans, drafted by John Alden. Its hull is steel, with a wooden deck and wooden masts.

“The original builder was infatuated with that design,” Thomas said. “The way the lines are on the boat and having two masts, and six sails, and it’s rigged with 1930s rigging.”

Thomas said it can be quite a draw at its home port in Brownsville.

“When the boat was donated in December, we were moored next to a million-dollar race boat and  people would walk by the race boat and not give it a glance, but they would stop by the schooner,” Thomas said.“It’s an eye-grabber.”

Kitsap Maritime’s mission is to celebrate the region’s maritime heritage through exhibition, education, and helping people of all ages and abilities to have a hands-on nautical experience.

“One of our primary goals is to provide a dockside education program where third-, fourth- and fifth-graders come aboard and learn some history, science, technology, engineering, and math,” Thomas said. “We have an underwater camera to do some basic marine biology.”

Poulsbo’s tidal grid was built in 1975. It is used for vessel inspections and minor or emergency repairs. A tidal grid works by having a boat tied up in deep water very close to the shore. As the tide goes out, the boat lowers onto underwater beams which hold it firmly in place.

According to the port, the tidal grid is one of the last remaining tidal grids in Puget Sound. It has a maximum load limit of 50 tons and a maximum vessel length of 65 feet.

Reporter Richard D. Oxley contributed to this article.

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