For three days each fall, Georgetown celebrates its nautical roots, paying tribute to the 18th century shipbuilders who once carved and crafted vessels out of timber in this historic coastal town.
The Georgetown Wooden Boat Show, held the third weekend in October, is one of the Southeast’s best exhibits of its kind, with more than 140 classic wooden boats on display on land and in the water, along with a wooden boatbuilding competition, maritime art and crafts, regattas, food, music and even a special appearance by a band of pirates known as the Charles Towne Few.
Seaworthy vessels featured in the exhibit include rowboats, kayaks, canoes, inboard and outboard motorboats and sailing yachts. Some of the boats are modern classics skillfully crafted from exotic woods like ebony and ancient cypress with intricate inlays and finishes as smooth as silk. Others are meticulously restored timeless beauties that include 1930s Runabouts, 1940s Chris Craft and 1950s cabin cruisers.
Boat owners and builders, passionate about their wooden treasures, make the journey from as far away as Pennsylvania, Maryland, Mississippi and Texas to attend the festival and talk to the public about the workmanship that goes into creating a boat by hand.
Among the most impressive boats on display is the Century Class – boats 100 years old and older. In past years, entrants have included a New England Cat Boat built in 1911 and a 1900 sailboat made out of juniper and oak.
One of the highlights of the weekend is the Wooden Boat Challenge, a competition where teams of two battle the clock to build a Carolina Bateau, a 12-foot rowing skiff, in fewer than four hours. At the end of the day, they head to the water to race the crafts on the Sampit River. Teams are judged on building speed, workmanship and rowing speed.
Visitors inspired by the competition can take their own turn at the oars. In recent years, the New Charleston Mosquito Fleet has been offering rows on a Pilot Gig from the docks of Francis Marion Park.
Other weekend events include kids’ model boatbuilding, knot tying instruction, a wooden Optimist pram regatta, cardboard boat regatta and a pirate careening camp set up on Front Street by a living history group decked out in period costumes and weapons from the Golden Age of Piracy.
To learn more about the Georgetown Wooden Boat Show, visit www.woodenboatshow.com.