A little Lady lore...

Published on Thu, Aug 9, 2001
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A little Lady lore...

by Christine Callan

The original Lady Washington was built in Boston in the 1750s. She set sail from Boston in 1787 serving as a privateer during America’s War of Independence. After the war ended, the Lady was relisted as a commercial vessel and came to the west coast.

In 1788 she sailed around the horn under Captain Robert Gray. She was the first American vessel to make it. Making landfall in Tillamook, Oregon, the ship sailed north, mapping the coast as far as Nootka Sound and the Queen Charlottes Islands

The crew traded with Indian tribes for sea otter pelts and with the profits, the ship’s rigging was changed from a sloop to a brig. This allowed for a much smaller crew and was better for sailing downwind. The ship continued trading furs to the Far East for tea until she was lost at sea, probably in the South China Sea, in 1789 while undergoing several somewhat shady ownership changes.

Today’s Lady Washington was launched in 1989. The replica is true to her roots. On deck, there are no electric winches and no aids besides ropes, pulleys and manpower. A long barrel shaped roller in the bow is used to raise the ship’s 1,200 pound anchor. Eight men raise the anchor, one foot at a time, using wooden spikes to turn the roller. Two others use hooks to pull up the 500 pounds of chain.

The boat is also equipped with four miles of lines that control six sails, with a sail area over 4,000 square feet. At top speed, the 195-ton vessel will reach nine knots. When the wind dies, the new Lady Washington has an advantage over the original - a 318-horsepower diesel engine.

The privateers job in the war was not to overwhelm the enemy with weaponry, but to board enemy merchant vessels, carrying them more by intimidation than force of arms. Thus there is only one gun hole on each side of the replica, just like the original. Privateering was a business, so it was not in the interest of the privateer to damage the ships. The replica still carries a pair of three-pound cannons and four deck guns that shoot blanks when sailing.

To see the Lady in action, there are three-hour sailing trips for $35 our Friday. The vessel is docked in Blaine harbor and tours are available daily. For reservations or more information call 800/200-LADY.

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