Once a sailor, always remembering the sea.

Current Events:

Upcoming Workshops,

Boat Links:

Knotical Nauledge

Northwest School of Wooden Boat-Building, Port Townsend, WA:

Wooden Boat Foundation and Festival: 

Jonques de Plaisance:

TrackersNW - kayak and umiak workshops:

Western Oregon Messabouts:

Center for Wooden Boats, Seattle (Homebuilt Boats!)

Check to see if Ernie has public workshops coming up:

Calendar or Upcoming Workshops 

Other Seasonal Samplers:

Wild Edible Plants,
Natural Building,
Pysanky Eggs,
Ivy Baskets, and more

Water play & boat workshops,
Natural Building
Camps and traveling workshops, 
fruit harvest

Kitchen Alchemy,
harvest and food preservation,
gifts and crafts,
Fire Science

Artisan Truffles,
Paper Snowflakes,
Ice and Crystals, and more

Year-Round Building Blocks:
Knotical Nauledge,
Caveman Chemistry,
Messy Science,
Rocket Stoves,
Writing, and Illustration
Classroom Visits,
Community Activities


The Wisner family is salty clear through, kinda like Ernie's favorite licorice. 
There were Wisners building boats on Prince Edward Island when the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock.  There was a Wisner privateer with letters of mark (license to capture enemy ships) from King George of England.  There may have been Vikings, and there were certainly a great number of seacaptains and fishermen, male and female. 
Ernie and his father Ron Wisner worked and ran boats in the fishing fleets of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.  They spent time overseas in the US Navy, and on other voyages in private and commercial vessels.  Both have built and designed boats for commercial fleets, tourist/recreational use, and historic repairs or re-creations. 
    The Wisner family tradition includes Norwegian and English boatbuilding methods, including traditional knotwork, netmaking, and modern fittings and maintenance.  Ernie studied traditional skin-on-frame boat construction for both kayaks and umiaks with Yipiq/Inuit boatbuilders (if you need to hear 'Eskimo' at this point, your education has included some mis-information).  He competed in rowing (single-shell sculling) during the 1990s and early 2000's. 
    Both Ernie and Ron were qualified seacaptains with all the associated safety, navigations, engineering, and maintenance training.  Ron also worked as an engineer (in the maritime setting this is the engine and systems technician, kinda like an engineer on a locomotive train).  Ernie also worked in seafloor mapping and exploration.
Here are some boats Ernie's been interested in lately:

Ernie's Hooper Bay-style kayak:


Ernie and student Liz, working on her Baidarka (Siberian-style kayak), a project from a TrackersNW workshop.

(Down the left side:)
Boat on workshop floor, being "faired up,"

Lashing scantlings and ribs together,

Ernie steaming the nylon skin,

and (above right)
Liz showing off her newly finished boat.

More pictures of skin-on-frame boatbuilding by our good friend Thaddeus: (look at June 2007)

Sometimes Erica helps, too: 

 Here, she's lasooing the Waldorf School's TrackersNW project, a 33-foot whaling-boat style Umiak. 

See other umiak pictures at: www.Ancestralways.Net


And here, on our honeymoon, we are helping Karli Mueller dress up Anais for Port Townsend's 2008 annual Wooden Boat Festival.


This is an example of the type of fishing boats Ernie grew up with, off the Oregon coast and up through Alaska  (only with better varnish):  The Petrel at the 2008 Wooden Boat Festival. 


To practice sailing, we built a "sampan," or "3-plank" boat.  This design was drawn by William Blake, based on a typical small boat found in Singapore Harbor.   Erica's Auntie Lynn got us the plans from the Smithsonian Institute's catalog.

'Tari' was a prototype to learn Chinese / Southeast Asian boat construction.  Blake was a good draftsman and knew boats reasonably well, but he had little occasion to observe the original builders at their work.  So we had to guess, or apply European traditional methods, where our information about Asian methods was scanty.  If you've ever built traditional Asian boats, especially working-class craft like sampans or harbor boats, we'd love to hear from you.
We liked Tari's lines so much when we got her out on the water, that we re-fit her last year, with slightly modernized plywood knees, epoxy hull coatings, and a daggerboard for day-sailing. 
 'Tari' is our invitation to lovers of Asian boats to let us in on the 'right ways' to put these boats together.  We figured we might not be able to speak Chinese, but if we put a boat out on the water that looked 'almost' right, we would catch the eye of many experienced people happy to correct our errors.  Thank you to those who have written in already to recommend the proper, traditional materials and methods.

What's the next boat project? 

Erica is drafting plans for this basic driftboat, as built several times now by Ernie's dad, Cap'n Ron Wisner. 

Economical on materials and transport, this 15-foot boat can hold 4 to 6 people, made from 4 sheets of plywood, some 1x4's, plus glue and hardware.  And it's light enough for one person to slide into the bed of a pickup truck, at least if that one person is a Wisner.  By birth.  The rest of us might prefer a buddy, or a trailer.  But it does fit on there, with a good knot or two, or straps.

26-foot sled for Alaska fishing trip
Ron says the best test of the driftboat plans that Erica is drawing up, would be for Erica to make one. 
Erica would be happy to nominate another willing victim to be the plan-testing-guinea-pig, or lucky new owner of a prototype boat for merely the cost-of-materials. 

Meanwhile, Ernie and Ron are puttering away on Ron's 26-foot fishing sled (above, in the snow), as well as an 8-foot pram (in the barn).

Pram hull primed
Pram ready for paint


Ron is offering the pram is for sale, to raise money for materials for the 26-foot boat.  Ernie's niece has named it "Sea Glory."  (The name will be painted, but not carven, on the back transom when we get back from our current visit.)

Dimensions: 8 feet long by about 4 feet wide, fits in a standard pickup with the gate down.

Materials: ABX plywood, NW pine and Douglas fir planking.  All glued joints are epoxy, and the whole is primed and finished in Interlux Brightside paints. 

Capacity: Easy for two people to lift (one person can 'walk' it or carry it overhead), suitable for use with oars, a small outboard motor, or your own modifications.
If you are interested in this boat, or in plans to build one yourself, please let us know - 503-807-6212.
Pram finished 
Ernie's 'big one' is still growing.  A 40 46 47 51 foot sailing catamaran. With head clearance for a 6'6" mariner on crutches, partial wheelchair accessibility, open deck space for projects, a tiny little solarium for Erica to grow fruit plants, staterooms for two families to live aboard, or a larger temporary crew for disaster-relief, research, or educational missions.  This is about as big as home-built boats come, and nobody makes plans for 6'8" head clearances, or 30"-36" (crutch/chair) walkways throughout.  Ernie is reading up on other projects and previewing various plans for largers vessel.,

Find Ernie talking like a sailor online:

Or drop us a line: 

Erica is taking some online sailing courses this winter at  With some highly amusing Kiwi charter humor.

If this sounds like a good winter hobby to you, too, you can use the promocode "wisner" to get $15 off your first NauticEd course.