Wooden boat company arrives on Bellingham waterfront

Video: Wooden boat shop opens on Fairhaven waterfront

Jeff Carson of Kingfisher Craftsmen shows some of the work he does with wooden boats, such as making a beam that will be clamped to create the right curve. Dave Gallagher | The Bellingham Herald
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Jeff Carson of Kingfisher Craftsmen shows some of the work he does with wooden boats, such as making a beam that will be clamped to create the right curve. Dave Gallagher | The Bellingham Herald

Maritime jobs can be a great way to make a living, so Jeff Carson and Christine Wallace want to do their part by creating more through a new business.

Carson and Wallace operate Kingfisher Craftsmen, which recently opened in a small workshop on the Fairhaven waterfront near the Bellingham Cruise Terminal. The company focuses on marine carpentry and shipwright services, including caulking, rigging and restoration work. The focus is on wooden boats, but they also have another goal in mind: To make Bellingham a hub for wooden boat services.

Carson said the goal isn’t to steal work from Port Townsend, which is well-known for its industry and the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in nearby Port Hadlock. He does want to make sure Bellingham has services available for the local fishing and recreational boats.

“Bellingham is perfectly situated for wooden boat services,” Carson said, referring not only to the geographic area but also the abundance of marine-related businesses in the area.

While Carson handles the carpentry work, Wallace offers painting skills. Both honed their skills in theater set design work, and both spent time working on the Schooner Zodiac, a historic sailing ship that’s based in Bellingham.

While the focus is on running a successful business, the husband and wife team want to train others when possible. Carson said there are a few shipwrights of wooden boats in the area, but some are retiring and he doesn’t want that experience to disappear in Bellingham.

“This is an excellent, specialized skill set,” Carson said. “A (person) can make a good living out of it.”

Carson said the business is already off to a good start, landing projects from several recreational and fishing boats. Summer can be an ideal time for the big projects, given the dry weather, but he also expects to see plenty of potential projects this fall after the fishing season.

Kingfisher is currently housed in a small workshop but is in the process of moving into a bigger space in a nearby building at 817 Harris Ave. Carson said they feel fortunate to get a spot on the waterfront, where they can more easily work on boats.

“The (Port of Bellingham) was really good about working with a start-up business like ours,” Carson said.

Interest in starting local maritime trade companies on the waterfront has been strong recently, said Mike Hogan, a spokesman for the port. When looking for tenants on the waterfront, the port tries to fill the spaces with marine-related companies when possible, he said.

The local maritime industry is doing well, leading to a variety of infrastructure improvement, cleanup work and expansion projects along the waterfront, Hogan said. That includes the port’s announcement last month of a multimillion-dollar project to change the layout, provide soil and sediment cleanup, build a new pier and a new building on 7.66 acres of property that’s home to All American Marine and Fairhaven Shipyard.

For All American Marine, it will mean a new 39,000-square-foot facility that will allow the company to eventually hire an anticipated 25 to 30 employees in the near future, adding to its current 45-person workforce. The company builds high-speed catamarans for a variety of uses, including ferries and research vessels.

For further details about Kingfisher, visit kingfishercraftsmen.com.

Reach Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com.