Whidbey Island’s schooner Suva sailed away with major awards from the recent 2018 Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival.
The 68-foot long sailboat, built in 1925, won two top prizes, the coveted People’s Choice Award and Best Sailing Vessel at the Seattle event, held Sept. 28 and 29.
Suva competed against 165 wooden vessels of many shapes and sizes, including yachts, ketches, row boats, tug boats and sleek Chris Craft motor boats, according to the Center for Wooden Boats.
This is the first time Suva has garnered awards since the Coupeville Maritime Heritage Foundation assumed ownership in 2015. The all-volunteer nonprofit organization is devoted to maintaining the classic ship and preserving maritime heritage through education and public awareness.
“We are thrilled with these accolades,” said foundation board member Missy Villapudua. “It’s quite a big deal to win both of these awards in the wooden boat community.”
A message sent out to Suva crew stated, “What a sweet testament to all the hard work our volunteers have done in an effort to preserve and bring back Suva to her former glory. Countless hours of maintenance, hosting, crewing, sanding and varnishing…this award is for all of you!”
In its 42nd year, the Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival is a chance for thousands of visitors to board old classic boats that are docked and admire the craftsmanship and talk to captain and crew.
Visitors are given small wooden tokens as they enter and told to cast a vote for a favorite by dropping tokens in boxes near the boats.
The festival celebrates the tradition and artistry of wooden boats with numerous exhibits around Lake Union Park and the Center for Wooden Boats, the nonprofit that organizes the festival.
Sailing to and from the festival was also rewarding, Suva captains and crew said. Both ways, the trip took a day and a half with an overnight stay at Shilshole Marina in North Seattle.
Suva stopped traffic when Fremont Bridge lifted for its passage, and it experienced the highs and lows of the Ballard Locks, said crew member Kim Kraushar.
Suva, built almost entirely of old growth Burmese teak, enjoyed a prime moorage spot in south Lake Union that was abuzz with boats, float planes and kayaks. The singing Shifty Sailors also sang a shanty or two aboard Suva for on-lookers.
Usually held on the 4th of July, organizers moved the Lake Union festival to late September for the first time this year; more than 5,200 people attended.
Suva crew said they were able to “bookend” the month of September with two festivals, including the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival on Sept. 8 and 9.
Suva docks at Coupeville Wharf all summer. With a motto of “Sail Back in Time,” the foundation regularly takes paying guests out for sails and teaches youth maritime skills. However, her sails are soon coming down for the season after cruising to Oak Harbor Marina where it docks until spring.