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3rd Friday Speaker Series: Chris Cunningham on Building an Escargot

  • The Center for Wooden Boats - Floating Boathouse 1010 Valley Street Seattle, WA 98109 (map)

Spending an evening with Chris Cunningham is always a pleasure. You come away with a nice store of new facts, a bit of courage to undertake a new DIY project, and the pleasure of listening to a guy who really knows what he’s talking about.

What Chris Cunningham will be talking about is building a very special kind of cruising boat: an Escargot, designed by the late Northwest treasure, naval architect Phil Thiel. Inspired by a ride-along aboard CWB member Bryan Lowe’s Escargot, Chris’s son, Nate, built one and Chris documented not only the build but also some of the cruises afterward.

Escargots are built for cruising at a snail’s pace – and to get into places other tiny vessels can’t. Chris’s good friend, Phil Thiel, liked to think outside the box; his fascination with the cruising barges throughout Europe led him to create a canal-barge-style boat that first found a home at CWB. Chris Cunningham’s fascination with all variety of small vessels for getting around on Northwest waters and his talent for photography led him to keep track of what his son was doing while building and then enjoying his Escargot.

All in all, that makes for a great way to spend a couple of hours on a Friday evening.

By now you’ve probably recognized Chris Cunningham as that multi-talented guy who edits Small Boats Monthly, WoodenBoat Magazine’s digital publication soon to celebrate its fifth anniversary. Maybe you know Chris the kayaker – and, for 25 years, the editor of Sea Kayaker magazine. Perhaps you have seen some of his artwork - models of Arctic kayak frames – that have graced some Alaskan museums. No matter how you know him, you know you are going to learn a few things on 3rd Friday.


About the Speaker

Chris Cunningham was born into a boating family and raised in Edmonds, WA. He began building boats in 1978, starting with a canvas-skinned kayak and a dory skiff. In 1980 he rowed and sailed the dory from Puget Sound 700 miles north along the Inside Passage. In the seven years that followed, he built three more boats for three more voyages: a canoe made of wood and laminated paper to paddle 2,500 miles from Quebec to Florida, a sneak box to row and sail 2,400 miles from Pittsburgh to Florida, and a replica of a 9th century Viking faering to row and sail 1,000 miles from Puget Sound to Juneau, AK. Now working as the editor of Small Boats Monthly, he lives in Ballard where he keeps his fleet of wooden boats: 10 kayaks, 5 boats for oar and sail, a canal boat, and a coracle.

About the 3rd Friday Speaker Series

The Center for Wooden Boats 3rd Friday Speaker Series is a monthly event where a speaker of wit and experience joins CWB to share their special knowledge. It is also an opportunity for CWB members to mingle with other attendees and the staff. The talks take place in the new Wagner Education Center, and just like museum admission, the program is always free.

Special Note: Location change. For May 17 only, our 3rd Friday presentation will be in the Floating Boathouse.

Snacks and beverages will be available. Donations to help cover costs will be cheerfully and gratefully accepted.