May 1, 2017 – Few are familiar with the term “tall ship”, but the Washington-based nonprofit Grays Harbor Historical Seaport is on a mission to change that. Their historic sailing ships, the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain, travel the west coast year-round introducing the public to maritime history.

“Some people imagine a modern ship, or a Navy cutter,” Executive Director Brandi Bednarik shares with a smile. ‘Pirate ship’ comes pretty close, but it leaves out the truth of why ships like these sailed-mostly for trade, exploration, and in military action. Our mission is to share this history with the American public.“

From May 17 to May 29, the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain will dock in Port of Newport, OR to offer dockside vessel tours, sailing cruises, and mock cannon battles. Dockside visitors can expect to tour the vessels and talk with the crew, while sailing passengers will experience the crew in action and the ship under wind power.

Private educational sails can be booked for all ages, which delve into maritime history of the 18th and 19th centuries. Students (kids and adults alike) are taught to set the sails before breaking into small-group learning sessions.

Aside from the rare opportunity to see a historic sailing vessel in action, a point of interest is often the crew themselves. The Lady Washington typically has a crew of 10-14, from paid officers to volunteer deckhands to participants in our two-week maritime training program. Some sail for the fun of it, others to learn the job skills of the maritime industry. As Captain Ken Lazarus explains:

“Our boats are a place where anyone can build a home. You can come aboard for two weeks as a trainee and experience what it’s like to live and work in a closely knit, interdependent community where effort and teamwork are the most valued ‘currency’. Some people stay on as long-term volunteers while others launch their careers in the maritime industry from our training.  What everyone who crews the boats takes away is a sense of camaraderie, connection, and belonging.”

Launched in 1989 as part of Washington State’s centennial, the wooden-hulled Lady Washington has appeared in several motion pictures and TV shows, including Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and Once Upon A Time. Constructed of steel, Hawaiian Chieftain was launched in 1988 in Lahaina, Hawaii.

If you’re ready to run away to sea, a full schedule of events, tickets, and volunteering information can be found on the organization’s website, For the seasickness-prone but curious, free walk-aboard tours never leave the dock.

The boats are in Port of Newport 600 SE Bay Blvd. Newport, OR 97365

Please call (800) 200-5239 for directions and sailing tickets.

Photo by David Welton