‘My last tall ship’

BROWNSVILLE—With his beard, stocking cap, tar-spotted work pants and calloused hands, Scott “Scotty” Kimmitt looks just like what he is: a master shipwright.

Whip-cord lean and tanned, he sits on the lip of the forward hatch of the schooner Fiddler’s Dream and talks about what he will do when he completes this, his last tall ship project.

“I’m going into semi-retirement,” says the man who has been building and repairing boats and ships for the last 35 years. “From now on, I’ll do piecework rather than running projects.”

When it comes to tall-ship projects, he’s worked on some big ones, including the Lady Washington. In 1999 to 2000, he and others entirely rebuilt her stern. In 2004, they replaced all of the mooring gear. While at Grays Harbor Seaport, “We built three fully-rigged masts and fighting tops for (the movie) ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ ” he recalled.

Raised in Portland, Oregon, “Scotty,” as he prefers to be called, got into boat building in his early 20s after being a house carpenter. He started at the bottom as a dock hand.

“In 1979 to 1980, I spent a year in Maine at the Southwest Boat Company, repairing lots of the sardine fleet and Camden Windjammers. Many of the Camden Windjammers fleet were well over 100 years old. The last one I worked on was built in 1898,” he said.

Leaving Maine in the summer of 1980, he rode his bicycle across the U.S. “A great way to see the country,” he said.

He enrolled at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, graduating in 1984. His junior and senior year projects involved building two boats, including a Norwegian rowing pram.

After that, he went to work for Rights o’ Man Boatworks in Shelton. “Named after the name of the ship in ‘Moby Dick,’ you know,” he says. He was there for two and a half years during which time they built three 40-foot hulls.

From there, he worked in Olympia until he started traveling. He worked on the C.A. Thayer in San Diego. That tall ship is famous locally for her time in Poulsbo, where she was part of the Pacific Cod Fishing Company fleet.

In January 2015, at the behest of the Kitsap Maritime Heritage Foundation, he came to Brownsville to oversee the re-building of “Fiddler’s Dream,” a gaff-topsail rigged schooner with a 48-f00t-long deck. The project involved gutting the interior of the steel hull, scrapping the deck, masts and rigging, and basically starting over.

Today, two years later, the hull has been repaired and painted, and the deck and deck houses are nearly complete. There’s still a lot to do and most of the work is being done by Scotty, his apprentice, and a core group of four to five volunteers. The ship is shrouded in plastic to keep it dry and propane heaters make it possible to work in all but the coldest weather.

Everywhere you look, the work that has been done is professional, top quality and precise.

“There’s nothing square; everything has to be patterned and cut to fit,” Scotty says.

“Scotty has the ability to take something that isn’t level and isn’t square, and turn it into a masterpiece,” says Jonathan Thomas, the foundation’s board chair. “His ability to pass his know-how on to his apprentice and our volunteers is top-notch.”

“It’s a very serious thing to send people to sea in a boat you’ve built or repaired,” he stresses to his pupils. “If they’re built right, treated right, they will keep you alive.”

Scotty is particularly proud of Daniel Hawkin, his apprentice for the project. “He’s been hired at Port Townsend to work on a couple of large vessels. Part of the reason he got the job is the work he has done here,” Scotty says.

Asked how much longer it will take to complete Fiddler’s Dream, he just shakes his head. “If the donations keep coming in, we should be up a year from now,” he reckons.

When it’s complete, Fiddler’s Dream will be Kitsap County’s only tall ship. Plans call for it to be an ocean-going STEM classroom for third, fourth and fifth graders, Thomas says.

As a nonprofit, the Kitsap Maritime Heritage Foundation depends on grants and donations to fund the project. For more information on how to volunteer on the schooner or donate money to complete the ship, go to www.kitsapmaritime.org.

Terryl Asla is a reporter for the Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tasla@soundpublishing.com.