By Bret Wirta
Sunday afternoon, March 13th 2011, San Francisco Bay
Lady Washington Sails
I have always been fascinated by the Tall Ship Lady Washington. Our official State Ship, she provides education and entertainment as she sails up and down the West Coast. She regularly calls on ports on the Olympic Peninsula. My family and I watched Seattle’s Fourth of July fireworks aboard her last summer. Millions recognize her as the HMS Endeavor from the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean". So when I heard about the chance to sail on her as a passenger for four days from San Francisco to Eureka on the open sea, I bought myself a ticket. What I really purchased was one of the most adventure-packed few days I’ve experienced in quite a while.
Lady Washington Unfurling the Sails
I flew to San Francisco, rode the train to the Embarcadero, slung my bag over shoulders and walked a couple miles to a cement pier close to Giant’s stadium. There, tied to the dock, was my home for the next four days, the Lady Washington. She is a replica of a two-masted brig built in Boston around 1750. Today’s Lady Washington was constructed by hand in Aberdeen, Washington in 1989. Built of old growth Douglas Fir, she is 68 feet along her decks, 90 feet high in her rigging and weighs around two hundred tons.
I was assigned a berth below deck next to the galley, along with three other passengers. I barely had time to stow my gear below before the Lady Washington cast-off into San Francisco Bay on a day sail.
Lady Washington Up the Rigging
Her decks were filled with members of the Golden Gate Tall Ships Society.They were hosting historian, Scott Ridley, who had just written, "Morning of Fire," a history of the original Lady Washington’s odyssey in the Pacific back in the late 1700’s.
My Lady Washington was captained by JB, a no-nonsense young man, rail thin, with an angular face. The wind was blowing, so Captain JB ordered his crew into the rigging. In just a few minutes, two large canvass sails on each of the two masts had been unfurled and we were sailing eastward across the Bay. While the sails cracked in the wind, I sat on deck and listened to Mr. Ridley who told us how the original Lady Washington was the first ship from the new United States of America to make the brutal passage around Cape Horn. I wondered what a tempestuous passage would have been like on the original Lady Washington. I didn’t know a powerful storm was waiting for us just off the coast and that I’d have the answer to my question soon enough.
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