By Christopher Erickson
To celebrate some personal milestones, Jean and I took a trip to see the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain when they were docked at the Port of Redwood City on March 19, 2016.
The ships are both representations of tall ships from the seafaring period of the 1790s, with the Lady Washington being a replica of the original ship. Both ships would have been used in the Pacific Ocean trade routes during the late Georgian Period.
The original Lady Washington was built in Boston in 1787 and then sailed to the West Coat. The vessel was used in maritime trade of furs from the Native Americans on the Pacific Coast as well as tea and porcelain with Asia. The ship had the distinction of the first recorded vessel to make landfall in Oregon, the first American ship to round Cape Hope and the first American vessel to reach Japan. It was later lost at sea when it floundered off the coast of the Philippines in 1797.
Both the replica of Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain were built in the late 1980s. The Lady Washington was built specifically for the centennial celebration of the founding of the State of Washington and became the state’s official tall ship.
The Hawaiian Chieftain was originally built in Hawaii. It then purchased for use in a Cape Cod sailing program in Massachusetts but was later sold to the owner of the Lady Washington.
The Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, based out of Aberdeen, Washington, currently operates both ships. The authority sails both ships up and down the Pacific Coast and docks them in ports. Volunteers give tours of the ships and answer questions about life on board a merchant vessel, sailing a ship, trade and other areas of interest. They also take people out on voyages and enact battles between the two ships.
While the ships were in dock at the Port of Redwood, we went in costume as pirates. One of the interesting facts is that the Lady Washington was used in film and television. The ship was first used in the movie “Star Trek: Generations” during the rank promotion ceremony of Lieutenant Commander Worf. It was also used a Chinese immigrant vessel in the IMAX film “The Great American West.” The vessel was also featured prominently in the Hallmark Channel series “Blackbeard,” as the Jolly Roger on “Once Upon A Time” and in the video for the hit song “Can’t Hold Us” by Seattle rap group Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis.
The ship is most famous for being the HMS Interceptor in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Part of the name plank used in the movie is mounted in one of the holds of the vessel.
The ship had a few items for sale. The most interesting was the brick of tea that was sold. Originally, tealeaves were pressed into bricks to make it easier for shipment and purchased whole. People would then shave off parts of the brick to make tea with.
After the tours of the ships, we went to the Old Port Lobster Shack for a birthday dinner. Jean opened her presents and the servers provided a desert with a candle for her to blow out.
The tall ships were a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday with some history and nautical excitement.