Welcome aboard: Get an inside look at two historic tall ships at Encampment 2009

From left the Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington. The ships will visit Garrison Bay July 25-26.  - Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority
From left the Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington. The ships will visit Garrison Bay July 25-26.
— image credit: Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority

The Lady Washington had quite a life.

She fought in the American Revolution. She braved the “sailors’ graveyard” of Cape Horn and lived to tell the tale. She opened trade relations between Hawaii and the Orient.

She was a true trailblazer: a 90-ton merchant sloop and the first American ship of her kind to make landfall on the west coast of North America, and the first to reach far-flung locations like Honolulu, Japan, and Hong Kong. She is remembered as one of the most illustrious players in American maritime history.

The Lady Washington was shipwrecked on a sand bar off Nootka Sound in 1798, but a full-sized replica was built in 1989 and is the official ship of Washington state. She will be anchored in Garrison Bay at English Camp July 25 and 26 for the San Juan Island National Historical Park’s annual Encampment — a celebration and reenactment of island life during the mid-19th century and this year, the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the joint military occupation of San Juan Island.

The Lady Washington will be joined by the Hawaiian Chieftain, a recreated topsail ketch typical of turn-of-the-19th century European merchant ships.

The Lady Washington replica has had a career almost as exciting as the original’s. At 112 feet long and with more than six miles of rigging, the replica has been named “Washington State’s Tall Ship Ambassador.” She also had her 15 minutes of fame as the HMS Interceptor in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and Enterprise in “Star Trek Generations.”

This year marks the 20th that the ship has been in service, educating thousands of people about the history of American tall ships up and down the Pacific Coast. The Hawaiian Chieftain has been her companion since 2004.

You can step aboard the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain at Encampment. On July 25, the ships will arrive in Garrison Bay late morning and fire their cannons in a salute, recognizing the peaceful resolution of the Pig War dispute.

Saturday afternoon, two long boats will be available to take people out to the ships for tours. Donations are highly encouraged for this service.

The ships will also be available for “Adventure Sails” on Sunday afternoon. The ships will leave at 3 p.m. to tour Westcott Bay and venture into Haro Strait- returning to Garrison Bay at 6 p.m. The three hour adventure cruise costs $55 for adults, $45 for seniors and students with valid identification, and $35 for children. Tickets may be booked by visiting or calling (800) 200-5239.

“With the ships coming, this is going to be a special encampment,” said Mike Vouri, chief of interpretation at San Juan National Historical Park.

Originally, Vouri thought it would be difficult to convince the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport to bring the ships for the sesquicentennial celebration. As it turns out, he said, “the Historical Seaport is as excited to bring the ships and celebrate the sesquicentennial as we are.”

As a side note, the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain will be in the San Juan Islands July 20-24 for five-day Expedition Voyages Family and Youth Camps. These trips include lessons in sailing, hikes, and exploration of the various islands with the help of trained naturalists. For more information and to book tickets on these trips, refer to the Web site listed above.

The tall ships are only part of the festivities that will be present at Encampment. Throughout the weekend, re-enactors from all over the Pacific Northwest will be demonstrating the music, blacksmithing, spinning and weaving, sewing, and carpentry of the time.

The annual Candlelight Ball will take place from 8-10 p.m., featuring a period band, traditional cake and punch, and dancing in the lantern-lit barracks at English Camp.

More information about Encampment 2009 to come in the weeks ahead. For more information about the ships, visit

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