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Sketched June 11 and Oct. 6, 2015

When I arrived at the Center for Wooden Boats North Lake Union Workshop and Warehouse back in June, Team Puffin volunteers looked at me like I just dropped from another planet. “You haven’t taken a ride on the Puffin?”

Puffin, a little steam launch built in 1906, is one of the most popular boats in the center’s collection. It has taken thousands of visitors on free Sunday tours of Lake Union since the mid 1990s.

All that sailing is the reason it was undergoing nine months of much needed repairs. The boiler had to be taken apart, and planks and ribs were replaced and coated with new paint and varnish.

When I finally rode the Puffin last week, I realized what I had been missing. A free tour of Lake Union from a hundred-year-old steamboat is one of those “only in Seattle” experiences everyone should have to appreciate our city’s sailing roots.

During the restoration process, Puffin’s hull and deck were stripped down to bare wood, sanded and repainted.
During the restoration process, Puffin’s hull and deck were stripped down to bare wood, sanded and repainted.
Lead boatwright Bradley Suedekum applies a coat of paint to Puffin’s hull.
Lead boatwright Bradley Suedekum applies a coat of paint to Puffin’s hull.
Puffin is maintained almost exclusively by volunteers.  PIctured here are Ken Duvall and Carol O’Neill, the two who took me on a ride around the lake.
Puffin is maintained almost exclusively by volunteers. PIctured here are Ken Duvall and Carol O’Neill, the two who took me on a ride around the lake.
The steam launch Puffin works very much like a small locomotive. When the skipper blows the whistle, a big cloud of steam comes out of the boiler’s smoke stack.
The steam launch Puffin works very much like a small locomotive. When the skipper blows the whistle, a big cloud of steam comes out of the boiler’s smoke stack.
Puffin is a picky boat when it comes to burning wood. To get the most fire power, volunteers feed the boiler with fine hardwoods donated by Dusty Springs, a local manufacturer of harps and violins.
Puffin is a picky boat when it comes to burning wood. To get the most fire power, volunteers feed the boiler with fine hardwoods donated by Dusty Springs, a local manufacturer of harps and violins.
Several float planes came into view as I sketched Puffin from a chase boat. Gas Works Park and the Aurora Bridge can be seen in the distance.
Several float planes came into view as I sketched Puffin from a chase boat. Gas Works Park and the Aurora Bridge can be seen in the distance.