DAN HAMMOCK | The Daily World
Ticket holders wait in line to board the tall ship Lady Washington for the fireworks sail at the 2018 4th of July Splash Festival. The ship will be in port this summer, but COVID rules are making it uncertain right now whether it will be able to sail with passengers.

DAN HAMMOCK | The Daily World Ticket holders wait in line to board the tall ship Lady Washington for the fireworks sail at the 2018 4th of July Splash Festival. The ship will be in port this summer, but COVID rules are making it uncertain right now whether it will be able to sail with passengers.

Sails and sale? Lady Washington plans to make waves, Chieftain may have buyer

The Lady Washington will be in town part of this summer. Washington’s official historic tall ship, initially scheduled to be in California for the summer, plans to offer tours and sail Grays Harbor from its homeport in South Aberdeen late this summer, with powder cannons blasting. Before that, it will be at Puget Sound ports. Meantime, Seaport officials said they received a formal offer on the Hawaiian Chieftain, the Lady Washington’s longtime sailing partner. The Seaport is selling the vessel for financial reasons and an offer is being reviewed by the Seaport attorney.

Administrators noted in their winter update to supporters that safety, insurance, and costs are major considerations as to how interactive the Lady Washington can be this summer and said a trip to California had been called off.

Executive Director Brandi Bednarik said during an interview this week that the Lady will start her sailing season in the Puget Sound this June and will end the season in Grays Harbor this October. Their schedule should be available within the next 30 days.

Safety remains a key priority, and they have their supporters to thank said Bednarik “We will start sailing with limited passengers to keep people as safe as possible so we still will be counting on donations, grants and merchandise sales to help us through. We have new merchandise coming out soon and a new membership program starting this May.”

On the sale of the Chieftain Bednarik said the money from a full-price offer of $150,000, “is all going to the bank because we have a loan on her. “She added that insurance on just the Lady Washington and the Seaport, “has definitely been a big financial challenge.”

The seaport announced in early 2020 that the future of the Hawaiian Chieftain was in serious doubt after Coast Guard inspectors discovered significant problems with the steel in her hull and bowsprit. The tall ship has lost money for the seaport every year except one since 2005 according to Bednarik at the time.

Even though they were only able to sail two months in 2020, a small crew used some of the downtime last year to watch over and perform maintenance on the Lady Washington alongside the dock in South Aberdeen. The former Weyerhaeuser mill site features a large, indoor heated space that works well for maintenance, and as the ship ages, the work becomes more and more critical.

Of the non-profit’s finances, she says, “COVID financial recovery is still going to take some time, but we are surviving, thanks to our donors, members, and grants.”

In September and October of 2020, seaport staff prepped the Seaport Landing facility in South Aberdeen for the winter work. “We also expanded our shore-side housing for the crew, using our existing space. It just took some muscle, paint, and bunk beds, and the new crew quarters were complete,” adds Bednarik.

November and December at the seaport focused on repairing and replacing aging pieces of wood on the Lady. The crew completed a section of railing that needed replaced. The finished product is beautiful said Bednarik. The crew also worked on the rigging and spars which was made possible thanks to donations through the seaport’s last newsletter. Bednarik said, “the crew that was able to stay on was grateful for the work and the housing.” January and February of 2021, staff completed the rig work and began caulking the deck to prevent leaking.

Red sky in morn

Determining if and when they will sail this year remains the top priority, said Bednarik. “We need to sail with at least 20-25 people to pay the bills. Right now, we can only have 12-15, and Phase 3 for Washington recovery hasn’t been released.”

Looking at their overhead costs, the seaport is also working to afford an insurance policy that has almost doubled with their policy renewal in April.

“Safety for you and our crew drives all of our decisions,” said Bednarik. “We will not sail, until we know we can provide the safest environment possible.”