Posted by: wadahp | May 25, 2011


Ted Geary

Leslie “Ted” E. Geary, a prominent naval architect and yachtsman, designed many yachts during his career in the Seattle area. Geary specialized in the design of large motor yachts, but also designed racing-class sailboats, such as the Sir Tom, as well as Geary Class 6,000-ton wooden vessels for the U.S. government. Geary got his start early in life designing and building boats, completing his first vessel, the Empress, in 1899 at the age of 14. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, Geary designed the 42-foot sloop Spirit for the Seattle Yacht Club, which would go on to compete in the Dunsmir Cup in 1907. Early successes such as this allowed Geary to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied naval architecture. Upon his return to Seattle, Geary resumed his working relationships with local boatyards and the Seattle Yacht Club, designing impressive vessels like the Helori, the 90-foot cruiser Wanda, and the 115-foot Samona throughout the 1920s. Geary moved to Southern California in the early 1930s but demand for yacht designs dwindled with the arrival of the Great Depression. He retired from his profession following World War II.

View of: Pirate, a Geary-designed R-class sloop. Source: Courtesy Scott Rohrer and the Center for Wooden Boats

Willits Canoes

Although the early twentieth century saw growing demand for sailing vessels, both expensive and affordable models, another type of handcrafted boat also flourished throughout the region—the canoe. The Willits Brothers Canoe Company, operated for fifty years in the South Sound, from 1914-1964, producing top quality double plank western red cedar canoes. The Willits brothers, Earl and Floyd, purchased property for their shop on Wollochet Bay near Artondale in September 1913. By June 1914 they opened for business out of a small wood-framed, board and batten-sided shop built on pilings, but moved to a new shop site on Day Island on the eastern shore of the Tacoma Narrows in 1921. The brothers only built and sold a single canoe model (originally known as The Artondale Canoe, but later merely referred to as a Willits Canoe or Willits), a 17-footer, featuring a unique double plank design with a waterproof fabric liner sandwiched between the planks. The University of Washington Canoe House held one of the largest fleets of Willits canoes in the 1920s.

View of: A Willits Canoe on display at Bill’s Boathouse on American Lake. Source: Artifacts Consulting, Inc., 2011

[1] Seattle Daily Times, “Rites to Be Held For Ted Geary,” May 20, 1960: 42.


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