The Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Wash., does many things. From organizing the annual Race to Alaska to teaching a catalog of classes to owning and operating both a vessel simulator and a small boutique hotel.

It presents one of the largest wooden boat festivals in the country each fall. Its campus includes two large buildings, one with a high-ceiling boatbuilding shop and one with offices and multipurpose meeting rooms and event space. It really covers the waterfront.

It was in the upstairs, large multipurpose room that the NWMC recently held its first Maritime Career Fair.  I, as a volunteer, greeted people as they entered the hall. Attendance was lighter than hoped for, but the room with exhibitors was steadily busy and many people got easy opportunities to talk with people in the industry like Puget Sound Pilots and the Coast Guard and Star Marine, a tug-and-barge operator from nearby Port Hadlock.

For younger kids, there were hands-on activities like planing pieces of wood and face painting; for older kids and adults, there were survival suits to try on and knots to tie. There were frequent drawings for prizes. Chrissy McLean, vocational training manager for NWMC, said feedback was positive all around, visitors and exhibitors alike. 

Port Townsend is surrounded by water and steeped in maritime tradition, but it’s not all nostalgia. There are dozens of maritime companies in town, including a busy shipyard filled with all kinds of boats, both recreational and commercial. 

As a member in good standing in this community, the NWMC takes seriously the need to recruit and train new generations of mariners and those who support them.

For the past several years, NWMC has been a principal partner in the creation and oversight of a maritime high school in the Highline School district between Seattle and Tacoma. It also routinely works with the local school district for on-site classes and field trips. It owns and operates a 38’ catamaran.

And now, they’ve added a maritime career fair so kids and young adults can learn about the good jobs and worthy careers out there on the water and immediately adjacent. Who knows, maybe someday one of the kids with a paper pirate hat will go on to become a tugboat captain, a marine biologist, or a ferry first mate. We will certainly need more of them. 

Puget Sound Pilots talk with students at the Northwest Maritime Center Career Day. Photo courtesy of Bruce Buls

This story originally appeared on and has been republished here with permission.

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