Port of PT’s marine trades shift to making face masks, shields

For release: April 3, 2020

Some of the marine trades based at the Port of Port Townsend are shifting operations to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) for use by people in the front lines of battling the Covid-19 virus in Jefferson County.

“Basically, we love our nurses, doctors too,” said Gwendolyn Tracy, whose Fine Yacht Interiors business is usually devoted to fabrics for upholstery, mattresses and curtains. Instead, she and others at the Port are working to turn out face shields and fabric face masks that could be used by medical workers or others in the community who are still working, whether it’s in industry or in face-to-face occupations, such as supermarkets or hardware stores.

“These are essentially ‘essential’ services,” said Tracy. “The masks we all use in industry have been reserved for the medical profession and are now backordered for other users.  The sanders, grinders and others are all experiencing an empty shelf for their supply of protective equipment. I feel it’s important that the rest of us have options to reduce our risk of getting sick,” when interacting with the public.

Tracy has researched and tested a design for a fabric face mask with the help of a nursing friend and a few other colleagues. Not only is she making them but she has posted the design so others can do so as well. (Click here to watch the video.)  Although some marine-related businesses at the Port remain busy with boats, others have seen marine orders diminish and are glad to help with the supply effort.

The work of these marine trades is part of a national movement to manufacture reusable masks from cloth or other materials. Across the country and across the world, disposable masks are in critically short supply for front-line workers, many of whom are reusing masks that were designed to be used once then tossed away.

The cloth masks, in contrast, can be washed or otherwise cleaned and sterilized for repeated use. “They can be laundered, they can be bleached, they can be tossed in the dryer,” she said.

The staff of the Port of Port Townsend, while not directly involved in the effort, fully supports it.

“On my very first day here three weeks ago, I visited a Port tenant,” said Executive Director Eron Berg. “I was told that whatever happens at the Port, we’re going to do this together. There is an overwhelming and unanimous sense of support for the Port and for one another as we all work through this. This part of the community is highly unified in its objective to get through this.”

Tracy is one of the first, but not the only, to step up.

“The alarm went off for me two or three weeks ago” that the mask supply pipeline was going to run low and contribute to the crisis, Tracy said. The reliance on disposable masks from petroleum-based and synthetic materials has revealed a breakdown of the medical supply chain, she said, which used to rely more on fabric-based reusable equipment.

She said her national suppliers of fabrics have stepped up and provided raw material across the country to mask-makers.

“So we stepped into the fray with what we thought was a helpful tool,” she said. Some of us are working with Jefferson Healthcare to help fill the gap in their inventory and protect their medical staff in the midst of the crisis, while industry catches up and can deliver their orders.

Meanwhile,  home-made masks can be used by a wide swath of the community.

Jefferson County’s official website has a section devoted to “How to Help” in the crisis, which includes information on the community face mask program. Part of the site is a pattern for sewing a face mask, mask sewing instructions and locations where masks can be dropped off or picked up. Home-made masks, for example, can be dropped off near the book drops of the public libraries in both Port Townsend and Port Hadlock, at the Food Co-op book drop or at a book drop at the Quilcene Community Center.


The link to the Jefferson County help page is below; scroll to the bottom of the page for mask information: https://www.co.jefferson.wa.us/1450/VolunteerHow-to-Help

The New York Times has also published a pattern for disposable face masks: https://www.nytimes.com/article/how-to-make-face-mask-coronavirus.html

For more information:

Port of Port Townsend Executive Director Eron Berg


(360) 385-0656