Center for Wooden Boats 


For over 30 years, The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) has served Seattle as a hands-on maritime museum and gathering place on Lake Union. We collect and preserve historic small craft and maritime culture; teach sailing, boatbuilding and maritime skills classes to youth and adults; offer weekly free public boat rides; and create access to the waterfront for everyone. Admission is always free and the coffee pot is always on.  Tourists and residents alike  

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.
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Center for Wooden Boats
1010 Valley St 
(206) 382-2628 

Betsy Davis 
Executive Director 


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.

Cast Off! Free Public Sail 
Cast Off! 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 intergenerational program creates free access to the water every Sunday year round. Over 6,000 people participated in free boat rides during 2013. 

4th of July Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival
CWB holds the Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival at Lake Union Park over the 4th of July.  Over 100 historic boats, educational maritime exhibits, music, food, and family activities.  CWB served about 30,000 visitors during 2013.

Recent Successes and Current Challenges

Over the last four years CWB has successfully grown its on-the-water field trip program to serving around 3,800 students in 2013, with 20% of participants from underserved backgrounds. With grant funding from 4Culture CWB aligned its most popular field trip to state curriculum standards for 3rd-7th grade.  For example, 3rd graders now learn about buoyancy in their field trip by each building a toy wooden boat and then putting it in a model dry dock.  The students then paddle a native “umiak” together with an instructor on Lake Union and go look at the real thing -- Lake Union Dry Dock.  CWB’s field trips introduce students using tools, learning about being safe on the water, learning the related curriculum, and learning their place in local history through hands-on experiences.  Over the last four years CWB has doubled the number of participants and provided scholarships for any unable to pay.  CWB is now partnering with the Museum of History and Industry to jointly deliver a field trip about salmon.

CWB's greatest funding need is for ongoing operational support to ensure that high quality programs will continue to provide children and families year-round access to the water and authentic opportunities to explore our region's maritime history.



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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