The Future of Maritime at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

September 21, 2023 // Alex

By Angela Hewitson, Associate Director of Maritime Partnerships at Northwest Maritime Center and Maritime High School

“The future  of maritime is…accessible, innovative, sustainable, transformative, heart-centered, inclusive, uncharted,” and more…or at least that is how the public interpreted it on a sail canvas covered in their own painted handprints after walking through the Future of Maritime tent at the 46th annual Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend earlier this month.

The Northwest Maritime Center brought a new focus to the Wooden Boat Festival this year—a special area showcasing inspiring movements to connect more people to the blue parts of our planet. 

From phytoplankton to supertankers, the future of maritime goes beyond ocean passages and sail changes to include marine science, STEM education, workforce development and improving access to maritime careers, addressing gender and racial representation in maritime, working on climate change and ocean justice, deepening human relationships to water and boats, and more. 

Activities included:

  • A regional map of maritime education organizations 
  • Round tables to encourage community conversations
  • A collection of literature showcasing marginalized voices across maritime history and multi-lingual children’s storybooks connecting youth to water and boats
  • Artwork reflecting Black commercial fishers curated by artist Nina Chanel Abney
  • Posterwork pointing to the Queer at Sea: Tales from the 2SLGBTQ+ Community exhibit hosted at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia
  • Professional portraits offered to Black, Brown, Indigenous, and gender expansive mariners to increase exposure of underrepresented members in maritime
  • The Dovetail Workwear Show celebrating women in marine trades in their favorite workwear items designed by women for women

In the Future of Maritime’s inaugural year at the festival, it was a marathon for all and a bit of an experiment in this crowd. However, there was a notable ripple effect for how different groups chose to show up together in the same space to define what and who maritime is. Much of maritime education and advocacy work operates disparately across the region, and it has yet to be amplified collectively in order to draw in the audiences we aim to serve. This was a necessary beginning, and however the vision evolves, our goals should be to “make the tent bigger,” remain connected organizationally, and support each other across our missions to become stronger.

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