The school owes its existence to an endowment provided by the late Donlon Arques who laid the groundwork for the school prior to his death in 1993.
At the end of his life, Don Arques defined the purpose of the nonprofit corporation he founded as:
“a school and center for the restoration and replication of small wooden boats that have had historical significance in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.”
The school has kept these purposes as the core of its program. The building of the historic gillnet boat and the restoration of the West Coast’s oldest sailing yacht, the Freda, are examples of this. In addition, a number of traditional wooden boats from other parts of the United States and Canada have been built at the school. THE ARQUES SCHOOL DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF RACE, GENDER, RELIGION, OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION.
Robert Darr, program director and head instructor, is a boatbuilder, designer, and teacher. As a boy he made several sailing voyages with his father, Captain Omer Darr, between California and the South Seas. He has studied with many local builders. In the 1970s he established a boatshop on Tomales Bay, California, where he built a number of small boats and yachts. In 1981 he founded The Center for Wood Arts, a school of wooden boatbuilding in Marin County. Darr is also an author and has pioneered the use of native woods in traditional boatbuilding.