Building Strong Boats Sailing Rough Waters

Tacoma Community Boat Builders works with at-risk youth crafting and sailing small wooden boats

Boat Building Skills

Youths work with mentors to learn woodworking and boat building skills. Through the practice of craftsmanship and patient skill building they develop a sense of accomplishment


As the youths work with mentors building boats they create a community of trust where building relationships and teamwork are essential

Building Whole People

Participants learn how to shift out of crisis mode and into a more steady, intentional path, learning the value of goal setting, critical thinking, planning, problem-solving, and successful work

On the Water

In addition to learning the principles of boat handling and sailing, participating youths discover the rewarding experience of getting on the water in boats they have built together

Tacoma Community Boat Builders

Building Strong Boats. Sailing Rough Waters


Number 3 of our TCBB Newsletter is out.

You can read it here. And then from that link you can subscribe and share.

Build a Boat with TCBB!

Families will build a wooden boat in two days 

TCBB presents a Family and Team Boatbuilding event at the 2016 Tacoma Maritime Fest July 16 & 17

Picture1Come together to build a boat in two days! We start on Saturday morning and by Sunday afternoon you will be launching your very own TCBB Skiff on the Foss Waterway! Then you get to bring it home for painting and a lifetime of fun on the water in a boat you built together.

Bring the family!

Building boats is a great way to spend time together doing something to engage everyone in the family! Working together for a common goal builds memories for a lifetime, and you get to bring home a beautiful boat too!

TCBB will provide your team with everything that’s needed to build a beautiful little row boat in two days, including: tools, materials, and expert building instruction. You and your team will work hard, have fun, and be able to launch your boats at the end of the second day. Then you can put your boat on your car top or trailer and take it home!

Each team will be supported by a trained and confident mentor as well as our cadre of our enthusiastic support personnel. You and your team will be doing the building. The boats will be built to completion – assuming the team is able to hold up their end of the bargain – in two 6-8 hour days.

TCBB is dedicated to building more than boats, we build community through our work. This family boat building event is a way for us to focus new energy and interest on our waterfront, wooden boats and the community based work we do in Tacoma. It’s a way to bring new people to boatbuilding, and to boating in our beautiful Puget Sound. And it’s a way for us to introduce more people to Tacoma Community Boat Builders.

Information, Tickets, Registration

Visit the TCBB Exhibit at the Washington State Historical Society

The Tacoma Community Boat Builders has mounted an exhibit in the Washington State Historical Society Community Gallery highlighting the work we do at the TCBB boat shop. The overall theme of the display reflects our mission to foster positive community engagement and creating opportunities for the youth of the greater Tacoma area.

exhibitThe TCBB exhibit includes boats, oars and other maritime related objects all crafted at the shop with our Youth Boat Builders and Mentor-Craftsmen. The exhibit features photos of boat building sessions and gives a real feel for the work being done in the boat shop.

The exhibit runs from February 6 through April. The Historical Society is at 1911 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, Washington. There is no charge to enter the Community Gallery AND on the Third Thursday of each month, the Historical Society is open until 8pm with FREE ADMISSION to the entire museum from 2-8pm.

Get the TCBB Newsletter!

The Tacoma Community Boat Builders have started publishing a newsletter, an occasional mailing with news of events and happenings at the TCBB boat shop. Sign up here. Here is a link to the recent Edition number one.

Tacoma program helps troubled youths build more than boats

by Adam Lynn, Tacoma News Tribune, September 7, 2015

“To say the program saved his life would be hyperbole, but it certainly showed him a path he otherwise might not have taken… That path includes the smell of sawdust, the screech of a circular saw, the comfort of fellowship, the satisfaction of hard work and that beautiful feeling of being at the oars of a floating boat and commanding, if only for a sunny summer afternoon, your own destiny.”

In interviews with founder Paul Birkey, executive director Shannon Shea, and volunteer mentors working with youths in the TCBB boat shop, writer Adam Lynn explores how the Tacoma Community Boat Builders program helps troubled youths build successful and purposeful lives. Lynn takes an in-depth look at TCBB’s successes to date and the challenges, plans and ambitions that lie ahead, and the importance of the TCBB program in the Tacoma community.

“… the kids, the volunteers, even himself, were building something bigger than boats: camaraderie, responsibility, friendship.”

Video link.

Link to complete story.  Includes photographs and video.

News in Brief

February 6, 2016. TCBB opens an exhibit in Community Gallery at the Washington State Historical Society. The exhibit, featuring photographs, boats, and other objects made in the TCBB boat shop, runs through April.

February 5, 2016. Tacoma Community Boat Builders begins publishing a periodic newsletter with information about events and happenings at TCBB. Sign up here.

February 4, 2016. TCBB is mentioned in a News-Tribune article about significant Pierce County alternatives to youth detention.

September 24, 2015. New fall term begins, averaging 17 boys a week. Some boys from previous terms return as “mentor assistants.”

September 21, 2015. Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, and Schools Out Washington present “Youth Program Quality Initiative” award to TCBB.

September 19, 2015.  Mahogany “Peanut Class” sailing dinghy, built in the early 1960s on west coast of Norway donated, latest addition to TCBB fleet.

September 7, 2015.  TCBB featured in front page news story by Tacoma News Tribune.

July 28, 2015. TCBB co-founder Judge Tom Larkin retires from office after 28 years.

July 3, 2015. Over $39,000 raised at July 1 event, “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” including $11,000 in challenge matching grants.

July 1, 2015. TCBB celebrates first year in operation.

June 8, 2015. Dr. Shanon Shea appointed as TCBB Executive Director.

November 25, 2014.  TCBB featured in story on KING5 television News, Seattle.

For news in depth, visit TCBB/News.

Tacoma Community Boat Builders

Tacoma Community Boat Builders works with at-risk youth crafting and sailing small wooden boats. Our youth participants work with mentors to learn woodworking, boat building and sailing skills. They also discover the value of integrity and a solid work ethic. Through the practice of craftsmanship and patient skill building they develop a self-discipline, confidence, and a sense of pride in the work they do. TCBB offers a safe and engaging experience that can lead to expanded horizons, better decision-making, higher employability, and positive involvement in our community.

Read more about our story and what we do.