Georgetown Wooden Boat Show: Extra day helps celebrate event’s 25th year

By Jason Lesley,  Coastal Observer

Mac McAlister prepared for this weekend’s 25th annual Georgetown Wooden Boat Show last Saturday by hauling his sailboat, Exodus, out of the water near Cathou’s Fish House at the end of St. James Street in Georgetown in order to paint the bottom and change the propeller. He and his wife, Mary, brought their sons, Robert, Jamie and Charlie, along to do the heavy lifting.

“There are only certain people who want a boat like this,” McAlister said. “It’s a lot of work.”

McAlister plans to exhibit Exodus in the wooden boat show this weekend. It won the best classic sail category last year. McAlister said the boat reminds him of a piece of sculpture. “The way it’s double ended,” he said, “it’s a beautiful shape. That’s the reason we bought it.” Aside from its beauty, the 30-foot Exodus is heavy, made of Alaskan cedar planking on oak frames, and is stable on the ocean. “It’s a good heavy duty boat for doing just about anything,” McAlister said. “You could cross an ocean in it if you so desired.”

The sailboat was designed by boatbuilder William Garden in Seattle in 1962. The boat was a copy of the heavy-duty pilot boats that went out to guide schooners into port, McAlister said. The boat was sold and sailed through the Panama Canal to Florida. It eventually made its way to Long Island Sound where the McAlisters bought it four years ago and sailed it to Georgetown.

They’ve had it on the ocean between Georgetown and Charleston, but it’s been out of commission for the past year getting a new engine at Johnson Marina up the Sampit River where the water is deep enough to accommodate the boat’s 5-and-a-half-foot draft.

McAlister said he and Mary attended a three-day wooden boat show in Townsend, Wash., and came away thinking the Georgetown show stacked up pretty well. “They have a big time show every year,” he said. “I think ours is every bit as good and a lot more concentrated. The parties are better, and now we’ve got a Sunday deal. It should be really good.”

That “Sunday deal” is this year’s second boat-building competition for past champions, The Master Boat Builders Challenge, beginning at 11 a.m. That will be in addition to the regular Saturday Wooden Boat Challenge beginning at noon and ending at 5 p.m. with a race on the Sampit River.

After a sponsor party Friday night at the S. C. Maritime Museum, the boat show begins at 11 a.m. Saturday with more than 140 classic wooden boats in the water and along Front Street. Vessels ranging in sizes from kayaks to cruising yachts will be exhibited in categories including: row, canoe, kayak, surfboard, sail, inboard power, outboard power, owner designed and built, century class (100 years or older), model boats and “classic” categories for boats that are aged 50 years or older. Visitors will be able to meet and talk to wooden boat craftsmen, manufacturers and owners. Maritime art and crafts will also be on display.

A new event this year will be “gig rows” with the New Charleston Mosquito Fleet from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday from the floating docks at Francis Marion Park. Each row takes about 45 minutes. The New Charleston Mosquito Fleet was founded in 1995 in Charleston to get inner city middle school children involved in boatbuilding and boating.

Among activities for children will be model boatbuilding and sailing and knot-tying demonstrations with Dan “the Knot Man” Machowski. Visitors will have an opportunity to test their knot tying skills in the “Six Knot Challenge.” Machowski is a member of the Spirit Knot Tyers and former president of the International Guild of Knot Tyers.

Sunday’s festivities include an ensemble performance by the Winyah Indigo Chorale Society and a regatta featuring the S.C. Youth Sailing program’s fleet of wooden Optis.

The official 2014 Wooden Boat Show image was created by Litchfield artist Johnnie Cowan. Her original oil painting, “The Maiden Voyage”, will be auctioned at the Goat Island Yacht Club Regatta to be held on Friday, and T-shirts and posters featuring the artwork will be sold at this year’s show and will be available at the S.C. Maritime Museum.

The celebration began 25 years ago as Bayfest, a celebration of the city’s maritime heritage. As that event foundered, a group of downtown business people took over the wooden boat portion and brought in 35 exhibitors in 1993. The Harbor Historical Association was formed in 1994 and has raised over $525,000 for the museum.