In the many indigenous cultures that have relied on the sea, rivers or lakes for their sustenance, methods for building traditional water craft were often passed from one generation to the next through some form a master/apprentice relationship. These skills required an intuitive feel for the properties of materials and an intimate knowledge of the techniques for forming them that could only be transferred through a close connection between master and apprentice. This connection also provided a means of transferring a powerful understanding of the cultural values that were embodied in these craft.
Traditional boat-building skills are now a vanishing art. The designs of boats, such as the currach of Ireland, the baidarka of the Aleut peoples of Alaska and lapstrake boats of Scandinavia, evolved over centuries to intimately reflect the resources and cultural practices of a particular society. As these cultures have lost their reliance on such vessels for their livelihoods, the need to pass on the requisite boat-building skills has also disappeared.
In order to try to preserve these traditional skills the Center for Wooden Boats in in South Lake Union will establish a boatbuilding school in Magnuson Park. A master boatbuilder will be invited to become a resident artisan at the school for a period of two years, where they will teach the craft and traditions of a particular type of boatbuilding to ten apprentices in six-month periods. The apprentices and the master boatbuilder will live and work together at the school. During the day a few guests of the Center for Wooden Boats may visit the school to observe its activities, however their numbers will be limited to ensure that the rigor and discipline of the boatbuilding activities are not compromised.