A little wind and rain didn’t dampen spirits for the 30th annual Georgetown Wooden Boat Show on Oct. 19 and 20.
Despite the weather, including a tropical storm which blew through on Saturday, thousands of people from around the country attended and participated in the event. It featured an exhibit of 140 wooden boats, a Wooden Boatbuilding Challenge and relay race across the Sampit River, a Corrugated Boat Regatta, children’s model boat building, knot tying demonstrations, maritime arts and crafts, Lowcountry cuisine and live music.
Susan Davis and Sally Swineford, members of the Harbor Historical Association which organizes the event, said they were pleased with the turnout and commended the participants for doing a great job.
“We were really very happy and thought it went very well considering the weather,” Davis said. “It never poured and a lot of the people who came were boaters, so they were prepared for the rain. The thing that impressed me, on Saturday especially, were the number of young families with kids that came out in the rain.”
Swineford agreed, adding that the setup went smoothly.
“I think we’ve got it down now, after 30 years,” she said. “We were happy to see a variety of people taking part in the competitions, including a grandfather with his two grandchildren, families and high school students.”
Davis and Swineford said they met people who came from places near and far to experience this year’s Wooden Boat Show.
“It’s just another showing, rain or shine, that Georgetown County is a great place to be,” he said. “That says it all. The weather hasn’t dampened the mood at all.”
Acting Sheriff Carter Weaver, who took over the position after Sheriff Lane Cribb died suddenly, was at the event with some of his deputies, serving chicken pilau dinners. He is running for Sheriff in an upcoming election. Weaver said he was happy to see everyone come out for the event on a wet Saturday.
Kip Smith of Greenville, who was with his son, Lincoln, 6, said he brought a wooden kayak and two wooden sailboats that were part of the exhibit along Front Street. He said this was his first year at the Georgetown Wooden Boat Show.
“It is awesome. It is a lot larger than I thought it would be,” Smith said. “I was really impressed with the diversity of boats and all the other happenings going on.”
He said he was really impressed with the Wooden Boatbuilding Challenge.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think my buddy and I are going to do it next year. He is a boat builder and I work on boats, too, so we were sitting there thinking we should be doing it.”
Matt Holseberg of Charleston was with his wife, Sarah, and their four children, Helen, 7, Warren, 6, Bruce, 3, and Rex, 2. He said they enjoy coming out every year and having a good time at the Wooden Boat Show.
“It’s just a good atmosphere to bring the kids out, visit the shops and do a little shopping at the outdoor vendors,” Matt Holseberg said, adding that this was the first time they took the children under the tent where the boatbuilding challenge was taking place.
“We saw a team with girls on it and they were kicking butt,” Sarah Holseberg said. “And we saw a 7-year old helping his grandfather build a boat. Warren said he wanted to learn how to build a boat.”
Boatbuilding Challenge winners
Winners of the Oct. 19 Wooden Boat Building Challenge and relay race, which required teams of two to build a wooden boat from scratch and then paddle it in the Sampit River, have been announced. The top winners were: 1st Place – Cody Keithan and Bruno Borzoni of Belfast, Maine (building time, 1 hour: 49 minutes: 26 seconds); 2nd Place – Keane and Craig McLaughlin of Charleston (building time, 2:38:08); and 3rd Place – Bryce Becker and Shelby Freeman of Newport, North Carolina and Swansboro, North Carolina (building time, 3:02:40).
In August of 2018, First-Place winners Keithan and Borzoni set a new world record building time of 1:24:29. Keithan, owner of K Construction of Belfast Maine, leads a team of custom home builders on the coast of Maine. Introduced to the National Boat Building Competition four years ago as a volunteer at the Belfast Harbor Festival in 2015, Keithan entered the competition to support the community and to fund raise as a Rotarian in 2016. After that, he says he was hooked. He has participated in the competition ever since.
Borzoni has always been passionate about the ocean, coming from a family of classic wooden boat builders. He’s been working with Keithan for the past two years, honing his skills in residential carpentry. He’s always looking for friendly competition, especially when it comes to boating. He is confident in his team’s capabilities to hold their title in Mid Coast Maine where shipbuilding once flourished.
Second Place winners, the McLaughlin brothers from Charleston, have returned to Georgetown six times for the Wooden Boatbuilding Challenge. They have consistently placed second in every competition since 2013. Along the way, they have also won a few awards such as: The Broken Oar Award (2014) and the Blow Out Award (2018).
Third-Place winners Becker and Freeman are also veteran boatbuilders. Becker has been to each location multiple times, but his favorite one is in Belfast, Maine because the view is so “majestic and peaceful.” He sometimes goes on Milwaukee tool-buying sprees and uses boat building as an excuse for his purchases.
Shelby was introduced into the world of boatbuilding by
helping build scout boats years ago and she has been hooked on it ever since. She
is known for breaking countless oarlocks while rowing during competitions.
Boatbuilding Challenge special award winners
Best New Builder
Jackson Mayer, age 7, a first grader at Mount Pleasant Academy, was named the “Best New Builder.” He and his sister, Scarlett Mayer, 11, a sixth grader at the school, helped their grandfather, Skip White of Murrells Inlet, build a wooden boat. Jackson, who is interested in woodworking, fishing and anything mechanical, rode with White as he paddled the vessel across the Sampit River and back.
A former Georgetown Wooden Boatbuilding Challenge champion/World Record holder Skip White is a retired carpenter who specialized in remodeling and homebuilding. He won the Challenge in 2010 with partner Dave Lowe.
Len Anderson Above & Beyond Award
The Jessen family from McClellanville was presented the Len Anderson Above & Beyond Award. The Jessen’s have participated in the Wooden Boatbuilding Challenge and Corrugated Boat Regatta as a family for more than 20 years. Marshall Jessen, an 18 -year veteran of the Challenge and a powerful rower, took first place in 2002, 2005 and 2006 with his teammate, George Heyle. Since then, Marshall has been participating in the Challenge with his son, Rigel, and in the past few years he has had some extra help from Rigel’s younger brother, Aiden. Marshall’s wife, Cami, is always in the cheering section with her camera.
Shanley and Sam Kellicut, carpenters from Deer Lodge, Montana won the Farthest Travelled Award. They were also the earliest registered (March 26, 2019).
Shanley Kellicut is a 1992 graduate of Coastal Carolina University and Sam Kellicut attended Appalachian State University.
Kenna Stone of Windsor, New York, who showed up to the
Wooden Boatbuilding Challenge on crutches and built on one leg, was presented
the Wounded Warrior Award. She was working with Tom Russell of Sea Level, North
Kenna, a former student of Bobby Staab at Croatan High School in North Carolina, cut her boat building teeth by competing for two years against other students in the Beaufort competition. Then she moved to New York with her family, where being close to Kingston, New York, she asked Tom Russell to team up with her for the Kingston competition. Following Kingston, she and Tom competed in the Belfast, Maine contest.
Tom started competing in 2008 in the first Beaufort Challenge at the insistence of his friend, John Coffman. After competing for several years, including once at Georgetown (using only hand tools!), John Coffman suggested getting the local Boy Scouts involved. Tom has been working with Boy and Girl Scouts, as well as other youth groups, ever since.
Corrugated Boat Regatta winners
There were also several winners in the Corrugated Boat Regatta, which was held on Sunday, Oct. 20. The two groups that won the Judges’ Choice Best of Show award were: Turtle Time (adult category) by Rover Tours and Bell Witch Haunting (youth category) by Paden City High School girls from West Virginia.
Corrugated Boat Regatta special awards
Based on creative engineering, quality design and construction, this award in the adult category went to the Georgetown Lion’s Club for its boat, Lion II.
For the youth, the award went to three winners: 1st Place, Bow Wow by the Emery/White family; 2nd Place, the Yellow Submarine by Doodlebugs and friends; and 3rd Place, Bell Witch Haunting by Paden City High School girls from West Virginia.
Based on theme and props, and supportive teammates, this award in the adult category went to the Pawleys Island Kiwanis Club for their boat, Big K.
For the youth, the award went to three winners: 1st Place, Flatwood Monster by Paden City High School and Hundred High School students from West Virginia; 2nd Place, Row Boat Beach by Georgetown Presbyterian Church Youth Group; 3rd Place, Mama’s Boy by Georgetown Boy Scout Troop 300.
This award is for the most dramatic sinking. The Pawleys Island Kiwanis Club won this one in the adult category. The youth award went to Little K by the Waccamaw High School Key Club.
For more information about the Georgetown Wooden Boat Show visit www.woodenboatshow.com. For videos of the boat races visit the Discover Georgetown Facebook page.
By Clayton Stairs / tourism manager for Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce
Information about winners was provided by event organizers.