The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) in South Lake Union has recently launched a new class of vessels to its fleet. Over the last few years, the Center has been teaming up with local students to build three new boats, known as Lake Union Swifts, built entirely by youth for youth.

The Lake Union Swift boat building program was a part of a maritime internship that began at CWB in 2019, with local high schools including Gibson Ek in Issaquah, Big Picture School in Bellevue, and The Seattle Skills Center. Multiple internships were held both during the school year and in the summer under. the tutelage of CWB’s boatwright Dustin Espey.

“They’re light, beautiful small racing tenders with a pivoting centerboard and bowsprit,” Espey said. “They also have built-in encapsulated bench seating,” he added, which aids in flotation and a quick recovery in case of capsizes. The Lake Union Swifts were constructed from stitch and glue plywood kits designed and manufactured by Maryland-based Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC), especially for the Center for Wooden Boats. The Lake Union Swifts measure 11 feet overall, with a 52-inch beam and draft of 30-inches with the centerboard down. They weigh 150 lbs and carry 78 square feet of sail. They are marconi rigged sloops with an aluminum mast and roller furling jib. They are a “pure sailing machine” according to the designer John Harris of CLC.

The three new Lake Union Swifts are now being used as part of expanded youth programming teaching middle and high schoolers to sail on Lake Union. More information on how to take these boats out on the water can be found at