Making the Boat

Mount St. Helens to the Caribbean …
the Making of Bruce’s Boat, Woodwind

Though best known as a world-renowned Caribbean artist whose work can be seen throughout the islands and in every Bahama Breeze restaurant across the United States, Bruce Smith would rather be sailing on his 34-foot gaff-rigged ketch, Woodwind, than almost anywhere else in the world (gaff refers to the type of rigging that supports the boat’s sails, and a ketch is a two-masted boat, with the smaller mast positioned in front of the rudder).

An experienced mariner, Bruce has had a life-long love of the sea, and even spent time helping build boats and making and repairing sails while living in the Caribbean. In addition to his family – wife Jan and son Kess – and, of course, his art, Bruce’s pride and joy is Woodwind. He built the boat entirely by hand on his property in Gig Harbor, Washington, using slow-growth timber that was salvaged after the Mount St. Helens volcanic explosion in 1980 … except for the main mast, which was a tree growing just a few yards from where the boat was built.

Virtually everything on the boat is handmade, too. In fact, Woodwind is a very traditional sailboat — Spartan and rustic by modern yacht standards, without a lot of amenities. Nevertheless, she has everything you’d want for an ocean voyage, including sleeping room for three and a small galley below, modern safety gear and an array of solar cells to generate electricity. And she’s proven her seaworthiness many times. In fact, Bruce and Jan have sailed her from one side of North America to the other more than once, sometimes with precious cargo aboard – their son Kess, who first sailed with his parents as a toddler and is now a junior in college.

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