The Center for Wooden Boats 


The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) is a hands-on maritime museum serving the Northwest’s Puget Sound region.  From its humble beginnings in 1967 as a collection of historic boats tied to the founder’s houseboat, CWB has grown to serve as an experiential learning hub and anchor cultural tenant of Seattle’s bustling South Lake Union neighborhood, with an additional facility at historic Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island, reaching over 100,000 visitors and program participants each year.  CWB remains grounded in the community with a membership base of 2,400, and hundreds of volunteers contributing 20,000 volunteer hours annually. 

CWB has defined the following reasons for being. By associating our vision with the impact of each, we more completely communicate the future we seek: 

CWB envisions a future where lives are enriched with the knowledge of where we fit into the continuum of history and human experience.  We nourish this awareness by collecting, preserving and telling the story of Northwest wooden small craft and maritime culture.  

CWB envisions a future where every child has the confidence to pursue their full potential.  We inspire young people by providing challenging physical and mental experiences in wooden small craft.  CWB is a leader in developing maritime-based experiential education programs for youth and families.  In partnership with regional educators and youth empowerment and service organizations our programs transform young people, helping them to excel in school, in the community, and in life.  CWB’s goal is to foster healthy multi-generational relationships where young people experience joyful interactions in which they are heard, respected, taught and can expect reciprocal expectations from others.   

Lifelong Learning
CWB envisions a future where people of all ages use their hands and minds to connect to their culture and their physical world.  We promote participation by making maritime craft and skills education available as a lifelong experience.  

CWB envisions a future where people form connections that strengthen society. We encourage contact by providing an oasis and gathering place at the water’s edge.  Partnerships with organizations like YouthCare, El Centro de la Raza, LIHI, Mary’s Place, MOHAI, Seattle Aquarium, and more, broaden our reach and add members to our vibrant community.  

CWB envisions a future without barriers to enjoying our waterways.  We make it easy by making boats on the water accessible to all.  Part of creating community at CWB is opening access to the waterfront and maritime activities to those young people who have not been previously offered such opportunities due to cultural or economic barriers. CWB opens access by offering programs on a pay what you can basis, but there is no greater example of this value than CWB’s Sunday Public Sail program.  Every Sunday of the year CWB takes people for boat rides on Lake Union at no direct cost to them.  Many are venturing out on the water for the first time. 

Mission Statement
To provide 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.
Donate Now
The Center for Wooden Boats
1010 Valley St 
(206) 382-2628 

Michael Luis 
Executive Director 


The Center for Wooden Boats Programs

Youth Programs
CWB's Youth Programs use the marine environment and classic wooden boats to engage students in the Pacific Northwest culture, history and environment. We provide hands-on opportunities for students from pre-school through high school. Field trip programs are aligned with state learning standards. Out of school time Youth Development programs are shaped by CWB's participation in the Youth Program Quality Initiative. CWB partners with Youth Service Agencies, other cultural institutions like MOHAI and Pacific Science Center, maritime non-profits, and a variety of schools.  CWB prioritizes creating access for underserved youth.  Within the context of CWB's supportive environment young people have a chance to grow as a person, learn skills, and set goals for the future.  From the boat shop or the deck of a boat, young people are challenged to solve physical problems, learn to communicate effectively, and learn to take responsibility for themselves and for others.  Many staff and volunteers find themselves supporting these programs peripherally because it’s so energizing to see young people grow and flourish. 

Sunday Public Sail
The Sunday Sail is a free weekly opportunity to step aboard one of CWB's historic wooden boats to sail and tour the unique landscape of a historic and central urban waterway, Lake Union. This inter-generational program creates free access to the water every Sunday year round. Over 8,000 people participated in free boat rides during 2014. 

Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival
CWB holds the Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival at Lake Union Park over the 4th of July weekend.  Over 100 historic boats, educational maritime exhibits, music, food, and hands-on activities for all ages.  One of CWB's farthest reaching programs, the Wooden Boat Festival serves an audience of over 12,000 individuals in one weekend.  CWB partners with SeaFair to serve the larger crowds on 4th of July.

Recent Successes and Current Challenges

Challenge/Opportunity:  CWB has grown along with the South Lake Union neighborhood and now serves over 100,000 museum visitors each year, and about 8,500 direct program participants.  The challenge is for CWB to build the capacity needed to capitalize on this opportunity to make these visitors into engaged members of the CWB community, and to be able to keep pace with the added repairs that comes from welcoming this quantity of people to CWB’s aging docks.  Additional visitor services staff, marketing, signage, and volunteer management resources, not to mention boat and facility maintenance, are needed in order to grow our operations to serve this increasing community base.

Challenge/Opportunity: CWB is at a crossroads where on a daily basis we must make difficult tradeoffs.  Do we use our one indoor multi-purpose space for a field trip, a meeting or an exhibit for visitors?  In the evening, do we offer a Captain’s Class, a lecture, a volunteer work party to repair sails or hold a board meeting?  In the current boat shop the tradeoff is between repairing a boat that’s needed back in service, running a boatbuilding workshop or creating a space for the Job Skills Training program.  

From the new Education Center, we will host field trips, boatbuilding classes, boat maintenance projects, lectures, community meetings, a range of exhibits, and welcome park visitors. The new spaces include a Restoration Boat Shop with a safe viewing area for the public to watch traditional craftspeople in action maintaining the boats in CWB’s rental fleet; a Youth Classroom and Sail Loft that is close to the water, kid-friendly, and easy to access; a free Library with a wealth of resources on boats and the region’s maritime heritage and environment, and administrative space for staff and volunteers.  One challenge is that CWB is completing its capital campaign at the same time as fundraising for annual operations costs as well as youth and educational programs.   The exciting piece is that construction of CWB’s new Education Center will enable CWB to serve more young people in its programs, and the public profile of the organization will increase with the visibility the new building will bring.


The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) provides opportunities to learn about our region’s maritime culture and traditions through hands-on experiences - sailing, rowing and building boats.

Proven Success
Membership levels are at an all-time high. Volunteers have remained engaged throughout the recession, with many stepping forward to help fill resource gaps – event planning, marketing, bookkeeping and fundraising. The opening of Lake Union Park in September 2010 increases CWB’s exposure to park visitors. Their 2011 plan focuses on enhancing the visitor experience by creating welcoming and educational experiences to engage these new audiences.

The Center for Wooden Boats is creating a new heritage hub at Lake Union Park where visitors’ can view and sail aboard traditional boats of all kinds. Activities are free and classes have scholarship or “pay what you can” options.

CWB plays a leadership role in facilitating the collaboration amongst a dozen non profit organizations that has resulted in shared planning, shared programs and events, a shared website and online calendar, and shared marketing activities (

CWB is updating their strategic plan and has prioritized that the plan will include concrete ways to measure impact for each of CWB’s primary purposes. CWB is currently developing an evaluation methodology for its youth programs and is actively engaging youth in the process.

CWB lost their space in the Naval Reserve building and has consolidated their operations into its Boathouse and indoor program space. CWB had a consultant complete a feasibility study for its $9.7 million Lake Union capital campaign project and decided to move forward a year ago. The campaign will fund improvements to current facilities, a new education center in Lake Union Park and expanded facilities at the north end of Lake Union. They plan to build a 10,000 square food Education Center in Lake Union Park that will provide a new boatbuilding shop, a youth classroom, community space, library, volunteer center and administrative space. A campaign cabinet is focused on raising the funds required and there is 100% board participation and several leadership gifts already received.

Financial Health
CWB’s assets have grown from $1.3 million in 2005 to $2.3 million in 2010. For the past two years they have had to make difficult decisions to balance their budget. They have tried to focus on projects aligned with their mission, strengthened financial forecasting and defined key milestones to review throughout the year to keep the forecast current.

CWB is adding a new fundraising breakfast in 2011, recruiting a new volunteer team to help steward major donors, and expanding awareness of CWB programs through an new outreach program called “Lunch on the Lake”. “Lunches on the Lake” events are held twice monthly to introduce people to the work of CWB through one-on-one conversations with volunteers and board members.

Grant History with The Seattle Foundation:

Grants Awarded through The Seattle Foundation Grantmaking Program:

7/1/2014 $250,000.00to support the construction of a new education center. Staff is exploring awarding this grant contingent upon raising matching funds
9/10/2013 $5,000.00support general operating expenses.
9/10/2012 $5,000.00support general operating expenses.
9/10/2011 $8,400.00support general operating expenses.
9/10/2010 $10,000.00support general operating expenses.
9/17/2008 $25,000.00support general operating expenses.
10/5/2006 $15,000.00support general operating expenses.


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