Hawaiian Chieftain sold, restoration project underway

The Hawaiian Chieftain has been sold and will eventually set sail for its home state.

A news release from the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, which has owned the Hawaiian Chieftain since 2005, stated the group made the decision to put the ship up for sale in 2019 and focus on Lady Washington and the Seaport Landing waterfront development.

“We were spread too thin to take on two boat restoration projects and the Seaport Landing development. After a year of planning and working with our donors, it was determined that this was the most logical step for us, though a heartbreaking one. Many of us — especially our past crew — put thousands of hours of love and care into Chieftain, or Chiefy, as she was affectionately nicknamed,” Seaport’s Executive Director Brandi Bednarik said.

The new owners are Aubrey and Matt Wilson. Their goal is to complete restoration of the Chieftain, and then to reinstate its certificate of inspection.

The project is underway. Soon, Hawaiian Chieftain will be towed from Astoria, Oregon, to Port Townsend to begin repairs. Estimated completion of the repairs is six months to a year after which a farewell party will take place at the Seaport Landing.

When the Chieftain is ready, the couple plans to sail the boat to Hawaii where it will take on passengers for day sails. The ship will also be made available for tours and events, offer educational programs and sail training opportunities.

The Wilsons said they are looking forward to their new venture

“Working with Grays Harbor Historical Seaport has been wonderful, and we are grateful for their support as we begin the journey to restore this beloved tall ship. We understand many people are emotionally invested in the Chieftain’s future, and a change like this can be hard, but we hope everyone will be as excited as we are about our plans,” the couple said.

Sale of the Chieftain was bittersweet and marked the end of an era for Seaport.

“We are excited to have found Chieftain the perfect home with Aubrey and Matt. To help ensure the Lady Washington could continue sailing and advance the Seaport Landing development, we had to acknowledge it was time to let Chieftain go somewhere where she could receive the love and attention she deserves,” Bednarik said.

“It was very important to the board, staff and crew for the Chieftain to end up in a good home with someone who would take the best care of her. We are confident that we found her such a home.”

The Chieftain was launched on July 7, 1988 in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. The boat was commissioned by Laurence H. “Baron” Dorcy Jr., and constructed by Drake Thomas, owner of Lahaina Welding Co.

Its design was based on 19th century packet ships used to ferry cargo in small ports because of their shallow draft. Sold in 1994 to Wolverine Motorworks of Fall River, Massachusetts, and renamed Spirit of Larinda. Grays Harbor Historical Seaport bought the boat in October 2005.