Tall Tales and Tall Sails

April 7, 2010

There it is!

Sunday March 28th was a blustery day on the Oregon coast with huge waves breaking on the shores and a storm rapidly approaching. Sounds like a great day for sailing doesn’t it? That’s exactly what my wife and friends Les and Joanne Benoy did.

The Ship's Seal

The topsail ketch Hawaiian Chieftain is a replica of a typical European merchant trader of the turn of the nineteenth century. Her shape and rigging are similar to those of Spanish explorer’s ships used in the expeditions of the late 18th century along the Washington, Oregon, and California coasts. Built of steel in Hawaii in 1988 and originally designed for cargo trade among the Hawaiian Islands, her design was influenced by the early colonial passenger and coastal packets that carried on coastal trade along the Atlantic coastal cities and towns.

The coastal packet service was part of the coasting trade based on mercantile activity of the developing seaboard towns. The early packet ships were regular traders and were selected because they sailed remarkably well and could enter small ports with their shallow draft. Out of the gradual development of the Atlantic packet ship hull form came the ship design practices that helped produce some of the best of the clipper ships of the later 1850s.

Purchased in 2004 by the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, the Hawaiian Chieftain joins the Lady Washington, the Official Ship of the State of Washington, in educational cruises and ambassadorial visits along the west coast throughout the year. The ship was manned with a crew of delightful Rotory students who showed us they really knew the ropes.

Know the Ropes!

The Hawaiian Chieftain was visiting Newport, Oregon and we managed to get tickets for a 3 hour trip. It was originally planned to sail offshore but with the huge wave and a oncoming storm we had to settle for a cruise around the bay.
For a hybrid wood/steel boat it look remarkable authentic. Check out some of the traditional design of the ship and it rigging:

Port Side Anchor

Cabin Window


A Wooden Pulley

While waiting to board I had a chance to look it over carefully and immediately spotted the carved Chief on the bow.

The Chief

Mary, Joanne and Les also enjoyed see the ship up close and seeing he sights in the bay.

We're Ready!

Once on board I noticed this ship is armed! It had four big guns and two small hand cannons. It looked like they really meant business as I spotted the magazine close by.

The Big Guns

Rail Cannon

The Powder Chest

After we were all on board and had our safety talk the captain skillfully used the onboard diesel motor to get us from the dock out into the bay.

Going Overboard?

Knotty Business

Then it was time to raise the sails and get underway. It was a good thing they were well supplied with deck hands as it defiantly a team effort to put up the sails and trim them.

Heave Ho!

Rigging the Sails

Soon we were cruising along with the stead wind form the approaching storm and we only needed about a third of the sails to keep us clipping right along.

Ready for a Gale

The captain kept busy manning the wheel to keep us on course and his first mate directed the deck hands with the sails.

The Captain's View

The Ship's Compass

All the kids were great and they all had many stories to share of their adventures on this ship. They entertained us with sailing songs and after a couple of hours loaded up one of the cannon’s and fired it for us.

A Full Boat

Fire Away - BOOM!

There was plenty of time to roam the deck and at one point the let us go below and see the front cabin. They were selling tee shirts and paraphernalia but there were so many people squeezed in a small space I had to go up for air. The cook quarters you could see peering through a  window and it looked modern. Darn, that coffee and breakfast rolls sure looked good!

Hatch to the front cabin.

The Cooks Quarters

The most impressive part of the trip came when it was time to drop the sails and head back for the dock. Four of the more agile and brave deck hand climbed the rope and hauled in the sails. It looked like fun walking out on the ropes but I did not envy them as it was rather cold and wet up there and none of them wore gloves.

Man the Sails Mates!

Haul 'em In

The cold air fresh salty air had taken it toll and once back on shore we were all ready to go find a good place for a seafood dinner.
If you every get a chance to take a cruise on a ship like this it will really enhance your appreciation for all those people in the past who did sail on ship like this all over the world.

The (aft) End


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April 6, 2010

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