Handcrafted wooden boat-building teaches confidence, life skills

Feb. 10, 2016 

TACOMA… If you enjoy the smell of freshly cut wood and lacquer, you’ll want to visit the Tacoma Community Boat Builders (TCBB) exhibit at the Washington State History Museum. Handcrafted boats, oars and other maritime accoutrement are now on display in the history museum’s Community Gallery, located within the Museum Store. 

TCBB provides youth participants with mentor-led, hands-on learning programs designed to boost self-confidence and capabilities for facing life’s challenges. In the process of learning the craft of woodworking, participants also practice critical thinking and problem solving and experience the richness of inter-generational relationships based on trust, respect and integrity. 

“There are few greater rewards in life than enjoying the results of investing in our youth,” said TCBB Executive Director, Dr. Shannon Shea. “Their futures are our futures. As they learn and grow, so do we.” 

Some of the skills developed by TCBB participants include relationship-building and teamwork, shop safety and skills, measuring, marking and layout, water safety, and a host of others. These skills are put to the test at the TCBB boat shop located right on the Thea Foss Waterway. The 4,200 square-foot, fully-equipped woodworking and small boat building shop provides students with access to the water and a number of vessels to sail and row. 

“Looking back, I realize that I learned some of the most important things – without realizing it at the time – from mentors I did not realize were mentors,” said Paul Birkey, TCBB founder and board president. “During every session, I look around and see skilled adults working with youth in this process that ultimately shapes our community, one person at a time.”

The free exhibit runs from Feb. 1 through mid-April. The Washington State History Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum stays open late on the third Thursday of each month, when admission is free from 2-8 p.m.


Shannon Shea, Executive Director
Tacoma Community Boat Builders

Erich R. Ebel, Marketing and Communications Director
Washington State Historical Society
(253) 798-5902