There isn’t much that is more “Washington” than the Lady Washington, the official ship of the State of Washington. When we launched the blog “We Know Washington” our goal was to create content that celebrated our state, it’s citizens and all the wonders of our area. The Lady Washington is a cherished gift everyone needs to see and experience.
Bekins Northwest recently took a voyage into Commencement Bay near Tacoma. She was docked at the Foss Seaport in late June for several days of tours before moving to Olympia for the 4th of July. For the remainder of the month, she will be in Port Orchard, Langley, Port Ludlow and Seattle for tours.
First, a bit of history. The Lady Washington is a full-scale replica of the Lady Washington, the first American vessel to make landfall on the west coast of North America (1788). The modern ship was constructed in the 1980s as part of the 1989 Washington State Centennial celebration. The original Lady Washington, or more commonly, Washington, sailed during the American revolutionary war. Later, it was used as a merchant trading vessel in the Pacific. Goods such as sea otter pelts were purchased from local Native American tribes, transported to the Orient and traded for tea. The historical significance to the Pacific Northwest is immense.
The Lady Washington is 178 feet long, weighing in excess of 178 tons. She is a brig style sailing ship with over 4000 square feet of sail. I asked the captain what her hull speed was and he responded, “ It is 12 knots, but I have seen the hull speed gage at over 14 knots on a downwind sail a few years ago.”
Our original tour was cancelled due to excessive heat, but they contacted us early and rescheduled us for the following morning cruise. We were met by several crew members who clearly had a passion for sailing, the Lady Washington and creating an enjoyable experience for their guests. Once aboard, we received the obligatory safety talk and then encouraged to participate in pulling on various ropes (called lines) including the halyards which are used for raising and lowering sails. Crew members climbed up the mast and then released lines that retained the sails and we were told to “Haul Away!” as the sails bloomed into shape. Once out of the Foss Waterway, the diesel engine was stopped, and we were undersail!
The wind was blowing approximately 5 mph and the ship did make progress. Slow progress. I certainly quickly became aware that the original sailors were very patient folk and not in a hurry to get anywhere quickly. The running tide made a much bigger impact on progress than the movement under sail. About halfway through the sail we were treated to the firing of two cannons. We didn’t sink any ships, but the smoke from the powder and the strong report did entertain everyone on board. Upon returning to the Foss Waterway, the helm was turned over to a crew member who became responsible for landing the ship at the dock. She, like most of the crew, were volunteers.
“There is only one way to learn how to handle this ship and that is to learn by experience and sometimes mistake,” shared the captain. Under his watchful eye, the volunteer did an admirable job of landing the ship, especially considering that a weekend sailor had moored his sailboat in the dock area reserved for the Lady Washington. Let’s just say, it was a tight squeeze.
Over the years, Lady Washington has appeared in several motion pictures and television shows, including Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Star Trek: Generations, Once Upon A Time, and Revolution.
The ship’s homeport is in Gray’s Harbor at the Historical Seaport. There, you can take advantage of several types of tours, from dockside “welcome aboard” visits to week-long passage sails. She regularly travels up and down the West Coast visiting 40-50 ports a year.
To see the canons fire, click here.
Each week we feature a new post about a weekend getaway, special attraction, quaint restaurant, or unique Washingtonian. Thinking about moving? Bekins Northwest has 11 offices in Washington to serve all of our wonderful state. Bekins Northwest Knows Washington!