Editor’s note: As The Daily World reports on the front page of today’s edition on the preparations for the sailing season for the Lady Washington, Harbor History takes a look back at the original ship’s background.
The original Lady Washington, in July 1797, was lost at the mouth of the Mestizo River, near Vigan, northwest Luzon, in the Philippines.
More commonly known simply as Washington, she was a historic sailing ship named after Martha Washington, and it sailed for about 10 years in the 18th century. Though covered in obscurity, the early history of the 90-ton sailing ship is said to be recorded in several documents, including the Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War.
On Oct. 1, 1787, she departed Boston Harbor as part of the Columbia Expedition. She sailed around Cape Horn, becoming the first American-flagged vessel to do so. She then went on to participate in the maritime fur trade with coastal Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, as well as the tea and porcelain trade across the Pacific in China. She also became the first recorded vessel to make landfall on the Oregon coast, near Tillamook, Oregon. According to John Meares, she was the first foreign vessel to circumnavigate Vancouver Island.
The Lady Washington was commanded by a number of captains back in the day. Naler Hatch took charge of the helm during the American Revolutionary War, and post-war, gave way to John Kendrick, a famous privateer captain during the war, and Robert Gray from Rhode Island. Kendrick had previously captained and commanded an expedition on the Columbia Rediviva, the larger sailing partner of the old Washington.
It was after the first trading season that he ordered Gray to sail to China on the Columbia while he took command of Lady Washington. Under Kendrick’s command, Washington was refitted as a brig (brigantine in Old World terminology) in Macau.
The historic sailing ship, Lady Washington, eventually became the first American vessel to reach Japan in a failed attempt to move unsold pelts. She remained in the Pacific trade before foundering in the Philippines in 1797.
— Source: Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, https://historicalseaport.org/