48 Degrees North Articles

Center for Wooden boats – “Shavings” Articles 1983

Boating News – 1974

Boating News – 1990

Seattle Times Magazine – 2000

Argus 1979

Norm Blanchard Obituary – Seattle Times – 7/18/2009

Curry Costal PILOT, July 20,2002

“Bothildr” Brookings, OR. Bodil Chickinell, Owner

Seattle Times article by Peyton Whitley – November 3, 2004

Venerable sailboat in distress, but aging owners determined

When it comes to preserving its marine heritage, the Puget Sound region has a spotty record. There’s the old ferry Kalakala, the schooner Wawona moored on Seattle’s Lake Union, and even the Equator, made famous by writer Robert Louis Stevenson and now resting on the Everett waterfront, all of which have uncertain fates.

But those are big ships.A far-smaller piece of marine history sits under a ripped blue tarp next to Marysville’s new Ebey Slough Waterfront Park.The sailboat is a 24-foot-long Blanchard Senior Knockabout. Beginning in 1933, 97 of them were built at Blanchard Boat on Lake Union in Seattle.In an age when most people don’t tend to keep their cars or houses — and some don’t keep their spouses — beyond a few years, this particular Knockabout has had the same owners for nearly 40 years. They plan to restore it.

“It’s looked beautiful in the past, and it will again,” said Patricia Denny, 76, who owns the craft with her brother, 79-year-old Herb Denny.

She acknowledged that they face challenges besides mere rotting wood and tarnishing brass. “We’re old,” she explained.Even for someone a half-century younger, the hours of caulking, sanding and varnishing needed to make the 1947-vintage craft glisten would be daunting. Still intact on the forward cabin bulkhead are plaques bestowed by Seattle’s Corinthian Yacht Club in 1947 and 1948, noting how the boat, named the Schuss, won the Blanchard Summer Series and the Commodore’s Race.

Now the Schuss is a reminder of another age in Puget Sound history, a time before huge stadiums and pro sports, a time when people spent summer afternoons — or even entire vacations — sailing a small wooden boat with a tiny cabin and no heater.

Today, a 24-foot outboard can take its owners 40 miles away in an hour. Under sail or with maybe a 4-horsepower motor hung on its stern, a Knockabout might go four miles in one hour.

The Knockabout was the product of a company started by Norman Blanchard Sr. that traces its origins to 1905. The yard produced such famous craft as the Sir Tom, a 38-foot sloop that ruled West Coast sailing in the 1920s. The legendary Lake Union Dreamboats, family cruisers of the 1920s and 1930s, originated in the Blanchard yard.

In 2000, the Norm Blanchard Regatta was sponsored by Seattle’s Center for Wooden Boats, to honor the son of Norman Blanchard, who took over his father’s yard. He eventually sold it in 1969.In an oft-told story, the Blanchards took to building smaller boats such as Star-class sailboats during the Depression, as the market for expensive yachts waned. In 1933, some neighbors noticed one of the Stars and admired it but said they’d like it better with a cabin. The elder Blanchard right then decided to build an inexpensive sailboat with a cabin, using a Star keel and mast.

The result was the Senior Knockabout. It sold for $750. The first versions were 24 feet long with a small boomkin, a V-shaped brace extending from the stern and supporting the backstay, a wire holding the mast. The Schuss is sail number B-41 and has such a boomkin. Later versions were lengthened to 26 feet, with the hull just ending at the transom.

For years, the bulk of the Senior Knockabout fleet sailed out of Leschi, on Lake Washington, where more than 30 of the craft were moored, although they’ve gradually been replaced by newer, mostly fiberglass craft. Patricia Denny, who says she’s no relation to the founders of Seattle, recalls that she and her brother bought the Schuss around 1966, at Leschi.The Dennys sailed the Schuss for years and moved it from one location to another, with friends in Steilacoom, Pierce County, using it for a while. The Dennys relocated to Juneau, Alaska, for work, although they kept an address in Everett, and hung on to the Schuss, moving the boat to Everett in about 1995 and later bringing it to Marysville.

But the Schuss began to deteriorate, and about a year ago, the seams in its hull opened in dry weather, and the boat sank at its Marysville moorings. The Dennys had the Schuss hauled out and put on a trailer. They started work on the hull but became distracted by a family illness that’s led them to spend much time in California.

A tarp was put over the Schuss, but fall winds blew it off. Nevertheless, the Dennys remain undeterred. “It’s been in the family so long, we want to restore it,” Patricia Denny said. “It’s a real relic. All the sails and stuff are there.”

The beauty shows up with a little squinting. Up close, the varnish is peeling, the deck canvas is disintegrating, and daylight shows through the hull. But restoring the Schuss would involve nowhere near the overwhelming amount of work involved in preserving such vessels as the 276-foot Kalakala or the 165-foot Wawona.

The new Ebey Slough Waterfront Park is expected to open next year, and if the Dennys are successful, a renewed Schuss might be visible next door.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or [email protected]