Tall ship Lady Washington expected to sail Puget Sound again this summer

The Lady Washington will be in Olympia, Tacoma and other Puget Sound ports this summer, if all goes well.

Washington’s official historic tall ship is expected to make the rounds of Puget Sound ports before offering tours and sailing Grays Harbor, powder cannons blasting, from its homeport in south Aberdeen late in the summer.

Meanwhile, Grays Harbor Historical 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.

Seaport executive director Brandi Bednarik said the Lady Washington will start her sailing season in Puget Sound in June and will end the season in Grays Harbor in October. The schedule should be available within the next 30 days.

“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,” Bednarik said. “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.

The tall ships were only able to sail two months in 2020, but a small crew used some of the downtime last year to perform maintenance on the Lady Washington in 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, Bednarik said, “COVID financial recovery is still going to take some time, but we are surviving, thanks to our donors, members, and grants.”

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 (guidance for) Phase 3 for Washington recovery hasn’t been released.”

Looking at 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,” Bednarik said. “We will not sail until we know we can provide the safest environment possible.”

This story was originally published in The News Tribune.