Port Hadlock’s Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding got a plum assignment — and a challenge — just over a year ago when the BBC hired it to build three replicas of wooden boats used by Old West explorer John Wesley Powell in his historic voyage on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The boats were to be used in the August filming of a new documentary about the 1869 trip.
The boat construction was something of a rush job, with no time to properly dry out oak that was used. The big worry: Would they leak?
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Happily, the boats made it through the canyon without sinking, and without being bashed to smithereens on river rocks, reports Ben Kahn, a Port Hadlock instructor who got to go along on the river run.
The school trucked the boats to Flagstaff, Ariz., where Kahn supervised their unloading on Aug. 1. The trip down the river lasted 18 days.
“The boats all survived, though the blue 21-footer took some very hard knocks and needed a lot of lead patches to finish the trip,” Pete Leenhouts, boat-school director, wrote in an email. “But they were all heavily built and, although a bit split here and there, could go again in fairly short order.”
The trip through whitewater canyons in the ill-suited boats was not without excitement.
“It was treacherous at times,” Kahn said. “It was a pretty wild experience.”
The documentary is planned to air on the BBC and the Discovery Channel on dates yet to be announced.
— Brian J. Cantwell