The Beaufort, NC Watercraft Center

Located just across the street from the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort, you will find the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center, or Beaufort Watercraft Center, which is in existence to honor the history of wooden boats. Most boaters will say you couldn’t GIVE them a wooden boat. Wood rots easily, absorbs water readily, and if you leave it out in the rain it deteriorates immediately. You won’t see any such thing tied to Beaufort’s docks or anchored in Taylor’s Creek. Yet, the wooden boat is nearly sacred to this culture, and building them constantly as they do in the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center is done to preserve that heritage of song and legend.

At any given time at least half a dozen guys swarm around a work in progress, often a vessel of substantial dimensions turned over, its ribs exposed. Despite the drills and power saws that litter the area, the goal here is to demonstrate traditional boat-building techniques, along with time-honored methods of repairing and renovating boats. If your visit is timed right, you might even catch a sail-making session in progress.

The facility offers a build-a-boat-in-a-week class and a build-a-boat-in-a-day class. The abbreviated version probably involves some homework. They also run programs to teach school children how to read boat plans and apply the math that in the classroom seems so utterly worthless.

The Beaufort Watercraft Center is also the centerpiece of the annual Wooden Boat Show in April, when wooden boats are displayed and people from everywhere show up for the National Boat-Building Challenge. More of same returns to this huge, cavernous building during Maritime Week in September.

Boat tours of the surrounding islands and waterways can be booked at a kiosk near the front of the Beaufort Watercraft Center and launched from the dock in the back.