Sausalito’s maritime roots run deep. The city’s first home was built by renowned mariner William Richardson in 1835. The Sausalito Land & Ferry Co. began paddle-wheel ferry service in the 1850’s, reducing the trip from San Francisco to Marin by hours. Although the Golden Gate Bridge pushed aside the need for ferries, shipyards remained busy through World War II.

Myron Spaulding

It is no surprise then that a non-profit dedicated to preserving the local maritime history by teaching boat-building classes to youths and adults is on the Sausalito waterfront. However, the non-profit has surprising roots, planted by Myron Spaulding, concert violinist for the San Francisco Symphony. In addition to the fiddle, he studied boatbuilding at Polytechnic High School in San Francisco. According to classmate Prescott Sullivan, “[b]y the time I had finished my bookends, that guy had built a boat.”

Spaulding became one of the most celebrated boat builders and yachtsmen on the West Coast, and in 1951 he bought the current location to build his own boat designs, many of which are still in use. Spaulding died in 2000, and the Center is now part of a charitable trust.

The Center

You will step into the past—and into a 20,000-foot boatyard—if you visit the Center. You might be asked to pass a hand plane before climbing rustic wood stairs to peruse the extensive nautical library overlooking the workspace or admire historic boats and the handiwork of the Center’s craftspeople. But skimming books or on-looking is not the goal. The Center builds. It is described as a working museum and hosts a wide array of educational programs and community events for people of all ages. There is a two-week youth program in the summer, where young woodworkers can build their first boat, a set of oars, a toolbox, or a skateboard. There are year-round Saturday seminars for mariners of all skill levels, and adult classes for making canoes and restoring classic yachts.

The Center’s seven-person crew includes President Bill Edinger, boatyard staff and a general manager, Clark Beek, a marine electrician who teaches Marine Electrical Systems.

The Mission

The Center’s mission is to preserve, share, and celebrate the Bay Area’s maritime history. It describes itself as a “link to the past and a promise for the future.” The Center is open to the public and Beek encourages anyone to “come by and hang around.”

“We are expanding our summer program in 2018,” said Beek. “We’ve hired a new Director of Education and Watershed Restoration” and the summer camps will not only teach boat-building, but also watershed restoration to instill environmental stewardship to our youths. Most of the students come from local Marin schools, particularly Willow Creek Academy and Greenwood School, which includes classes at the Center as part of its curriculum. Summer camps include a lot of one-on-one attention, are limited to ten students, and true to its mission, the Center regularly offers scholarships.

The Center’s courses have included Women and Woodworking, Marine Electrical Seminar, Knots and Splices, and Marlinspike Seamanship. It also offers job-training for developmentally delayed students.

For relief from the hard work, the Center offers classic, seafarer-related movie nights (next showing on March 9) and a variety of other programming for the local community of all ages.

For more information, please feel free to contact Clark Beek via email.