The always graceful and dignified tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain are again paying a visit to Marina del Rey — from Thursday through Wednesday, December 7th to 13th.
They are in town just long enough to conduct some educational cruises for children, open their decks to the public for tours and day trips and take part in the annual Holiday Boat Parade.
While many have seen the square-rigged brig Lady Washington on the silver screen in the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean films, now the community can enjoy the reality of both of these most accurate replicas and take a journey into the late 1700s, when a life at sea was probably the most risky and threatening work there was.
The men who embarked out of the harbor on these ships never knew if they would return because so much could go wrong. Lethal pirate hijackings, heavy weather or disease could all potentially doom the sailors of this period as they slowly crossed the oceans, hoping to survive and cash in if all went according to plan.
Sailors in the tall ship era were a breed of people, tough as leather, such as the world hasn’t seen since. To walk the decks of these vessels is to get a taste what that hardened lifestyle was all about.
In these days of roller furling, self-tailing winches, inverters, water-makers, GPS (Global Positioning System), radar, etc., the tall ships give a healthy perspective for the modern sailor.
On these boats a sail change meant climbing the rig (close to 90 feet high) in any brand of weather to physically raise or lower a sail, and accommodations for a typical crewman were cramped and uncomfortable, to say the least.
Both ships in their original forms were involved in merchant trading. The Hawaiian Chieftain, a 103-foot, square topsail ketch, was designed to reintroduce sailing vessels for cargo, trading and passenger transport in the early 19th century among the Hawaiian Islands, for this type of square-rigger was ideal in utilizing the plentiful trade winds among the Hawaiian Islands.
In her present incarnation she has sailed from Honolulu to Tahiti, back to Honolulu and then to San Francisco, where she was purchased and spent the next 14 years.
As for the Lady Washington, a merchant brig of 90 tons, in 1788 she became the first American vessel to round Cape Horn and visit the West Coast of North America, Honolulu, Hong Kong and Japan while pioneering trade between the newly independent United States of America and the Orient.
In 1792, her captain, Robert Gray, discovered the area now known as Grays Harbor, Washington and this is where her replica was built. The 112-foot square-rigged brig was built in Aberdeen, Washington by Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority and was launched on March 7th, 1989. She is a full-scale reproduction of the original Lady Washington.
Today both ships are constantly touring the West Coast, providing an authentic portal into the past. They sail with a crew (made up of both paid staff and volunteers) of 12 to 16 who live aboard throughout the year. The crew is always rotating, so both ships are often in need of volunteers to sail the ship.
“New volunteers sign aboard for a two-week ‘if the shoe fits’ period,” said a representative for Lady Washington. “If things work well, these sailors may apply to extend their agreement, or sign aboard at a later date for a longer voyage, continuing as a volunteer, or working their way up to a paid staff position.”
When the pair saddles up to 1700 Dock at Marina Harbor off Bora Bora Way in Marina del Rey, the public is invited to come and explore the ships during public dockside tours, or help the crew haul lines and learn what it takes to sail an 18th century tall ship on a three-hour Adventure Sail.
Mock sea battles are planned between the two ships and there will also be education programs offered where school children will have the opportunity to learn, hands-on, about global trade, navigation and the life of 18th century sailors.
In addition they are also welcoming the public to sail on the ships during the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade.
For information on availability and prices of the Educational Programs, call (800) 200-5239.
Dockside Tours: by donation.
Adventure Sails: $45 for adults; $35 for seniors 62 and older and students 13 to 18 years old; $25 for children 12 and younger.
Battle Sails: $50 for adults; $30 for children 12 years old and younger.
Lighted Boat Parade Sail: $75 for adults, $50 for children 12 years old and younger.
Reserving early is recommended. For reservations and information, call (800) 200-5239
For complete schedule and further information, www.histor icalseaport.org