Adventure Sail on the Lady Washington

By Jennifer Coleman

"Yo ho yo ho a pirate’s life for me." I found myself humming this tune as we waited expectantly in line to board the tall ship, Lady Washington. As we gathered on the deck of this beautiful wooden ship, I soon realized I wasn’t the only one feeling pirate-y on this adventure sail, one of the first questions asked was ‘where’s the plank?’

Being a deckhand on a working vessel is not for the soft handed or heights challenged. I’m in awe of the sheer amount of hoisting and pulling of ropes, the never-ending coiling and climbing that goes into keeping this ship sailing smoothly. 

I noticed right away that there would be no lolly-gagging on this adventure sail. The crew is scurrying about the main deck securing the rigging, moving the fenders and finding their spots among the passengers gathered on the glossy wooden deck. We’re excited to be setting out from Blaine Harbor on our sunset cruise aboard Washington’s official ship.

The Lady Washington we’re standing on is actually a 30-year old replica of the original ship that was named in honor of Martha Washington and captained during the American Revolutionary War. While the original Lady Washington foundered in 1797, her replica was painstakingly built in Aberdeen, Washington in time for our state’s centennial celebration in 1989. She is currently captained by a professional and volunteer crew who guide her through the waters of Puget Sound and beyond, conjuring many ‘ahoy mateys’ and ‘aaarghs’ along the way.

Moving away from the dock at Blaine Harbor.

Nesting Cormorants bid us a very vocal goodbye.

As we slowly move off the dock, Cormorants nesting on the nearby jetty challenge the volume of our crew as they begin to share the history of the storied vessel. The captain calls out orders and his capable deckhands comply, guiding us out of the harbor. We learn that the Lady Washington was the first American-flagged vessel to round Cape Horn. We hear how she participated in the maritime fur trade and made her way across the Pacific Ocean to China and Japan. All the while, ropes are moving, deckhands are climbing the masts and ever so slowly the sails are lowered, and we begin to pick up speed.

Deckhands clamoring up the ropes, ready to release the sails.

Holding the sails steady as we enter Semiahmoo Bay.

Launched in 1989, the Lady Washington was built in Aberdeen, WA by Grays Harbor Historical Seaport.

Our adventure sail brings us right up to the maritime boundary between Canada and the United States. We make our way to the stern and watch the deckhand moving the rudder post to turn us away from international waters. As the ship turns, the golden sunset illuminates the sails and casts bright light off the nearby Semiahmoo Resort that comes into view at the end of Semiahmoo Spit. We’re slowly sailing back towards Blaine Harbor, savoring the quiet and enjoying the experience of being on this tall ship and sailing the way its been done for hundreds of years. 

Being a deckhand on a working vessel is not for the soft handed or heights challenged. I’m in awe of the sheer amount of hoisting and pulling of ropes, the never-ending coiling and climbing that goes into keeping this ship sailing smoothly. With each order from the captain comes the verbal confirmation and immediate action. Passengers were encouraged to hoist the sails...and we were surely slow and awkward in the task. I blame my soft hands, but the deck crew picked up the slack, singing sea-shanties all the while.



The Lady Washington is making her way around Puget Sound this summer with stops in Everett, Port Orchard, Tacoma, Olympia, Langley, Kirkland and Gig Harbor through mid-October. Whether you have time to do a sunset adventure sail or just a walk aboard at the dock, you won’t be disappointed. The deck crew welcomes visitors into the immersive, hands-on ship experience of a by-gone era.

To check the schedule and book your adventure sail, visit the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport website www.historicalseaport.org or call them at 800-200-5239.

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