This September we enjoyed one of Western Washington’s many festivals that shine a light on the unique culture that has been cultivated here. There’s the Tulip Festival in Burlington, the Lavender Festival in Sequim, Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, Salmon Days in Issaquah and our destination: The Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend.
3 days where boat nerds gather with beer gardens, maritime talks, gussied up boats on display, tall ships gliding by and a wooden boat building competition. It draws people with a deep passion for boats and their friends who didn’t know there were so many kinds of boats but like beer.
Soon after arriving, I saw the pleasing lines of a petite, spruced-up sailboat. Her white hull was partially obscured by scaffolding and signage. Unlike the other vessels, this boat held a place of honor, situated on a trailer in the very center of the festival grounds. Named Felicity Ann, she deserved to take center stage with a future almost as interesting as her past.
Built 68 years ago, Felicity Ann is a 23-foot long wooden sailboat originally named Pied Piper (I think Felicity Ann suits much better). Felicity Ann was Ann Davison’s vessel during her historic solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1953. Think of Ann Davison as sailing’s Amelia Earhart but keep in mind, Earhart’s craft of choice was 25′ longer than Davison’s and never made contact with the water.
Set sail from Plymouth, England on May 18, 1952
Began Atlantic passage from the Canary Islands on November 20, 1952
Arrived in Dominica on January 23, 1953, after 65 days at sea
Her journey is detailed in the autobiography My Ship is So Small
Felicity Ann not only represents a milestone for women, it also represents the potential of collaboration. In this case, the collaboration of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building (NWSWBB) and the Community Boat Project.
Credit is also due to an Alaskan owner who revived the boat from obscurity and began a partial restoration. NWSWBB and the Community Boat Project’s inspiring partnership continued his efforts and brought her to the Wooden Boat Festival for a fitting, post-restoration debut.
But Felicity Ann‘s voyage is not yet done. She will be sailed as an on-the-water training platform focused on empowering women, youth and other members of the community. Pretty damn cool.
My bookshelf houses the accounts of several other pioneering female sailors:
M. Wylie Blanchett, a widow who cruised the rugged British Columbia coast each summer with her children aboard a 25-foot vessel as early as 1927.
Naomi James who in 1977 at age twenty-nine, sailed single-handedly around the world via Cape Horn and did it faster than the original record holder, Sir Francis Chichester.
Tania Aebi who at eighteen, chose a 26′ sailboat over college and learned not only how to sail but who she was, all while becoming the youngest solo-circumnavigator at the time.
Her experience inspired Laura Dekker, who entered the records books in 2010 and remains the youngest person to sail around the world solo. I was exceptionally inspired by her humility and focus after our lunch together. In addition to her book, the documentary about her trip called Maidentrip is a great watch for ladies, and lads, of all ages.
But, Ann Davison was a new name to me. I’m so glad I’ve learned about her story and met Felicity Ann.
See Felicity Ann‘s new website here. She didn’t have that in 1953!
Learn about the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building here.
Learn about the Community Boat Project here.
And check out this video about Felicity Ann’s restoration (mind you, it was a fundraising teaser):