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COOS BAY -- A scheduling conflict in Newport has brought the tall ships the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain to Coos Bay for the next week.

Weather restricted the Lady Washington from making her Coos Bay visit in mid-April. It was surprising that the Bay area received the opportunity for a summer visit.

Much of the credit for organizing the last minute visit belongs to the director of the Boat Building Center. Tom Leahy, who immediately contacted the ship owners at Gray's Harbor Historical Seaport when he heard of the cancellation in Newport.  

The two ships have a busy schedule over the next week complete with vessel tours, adventure sails, and even battle sails. The ships made it to the bay earlier in the week, and will be staying through to July 23.

“We’ll be doing sails almost every day… We’re doing battle sails almost every day. Battle sails are a lot of fun for us. We’ll turn around and set sail and talk about how battle tactics would have worked in the 1700s and 1800s,” Hawaiian Chieftain Capt. Ryan Downs said.

Although the Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington are not warships they are rigged similarly to how warships would have been. Crew members from each ship will be firing black powder blanks at each other during the simulated battles.

According to Downs, Coos Bay is one of the Hawaiian Chieftain's favorite ports to visit because few ports are as welcoming as ours.

“Coos Bay is great. There are few towns we go to that enjoy us being there as much as Coos Bay… There are a few towns that are just really excited when we show up, and Coos Bay is one of them,” Downs said.

The crew of the Hawaiian Chieftain expressed a fondness for local Coos Bay business Time Bomb Clothing Exchange.

“We like going to the Time Bomb. All of our clothes basically have come from Time Bomb,” Downs said.

Thursday afternoon the crew of the Lady Washington was on deck working on crew training exercises while docked at the boardwalk.

Some of the crew members are very new to sailing, participating in a two week training program which gives them experience working on the ships and can qualify them to come back as volunteers in the future.

“I’m doing a two week training, afterward, if all goes well I can volunteer if I choose to continue sailing,” Corbyn Mejia said.

Mejia’s grandfather heard about the training program and signed him up as a gift for his high school graduation.

Deck hand James Hsu has been aboard the Lady Washington for the past month. He found his way to the ship through his historical reenacting hobby.

“I do a lot of black powder stuff, so the cannons are my favorite. I like to shoot them off and do battle sails with them,” Hsu said.  

Hannah Livant is the Lady Washington’s program coordinator, which means she is often in charge of educating the groups that come aboard. She said that one of her favorite things to show groups are the braces that are on either side of the ship.

“I like to have people pull on them. A lot of this seems really complicated until you lay hands on it… what I like is when someone realizes they can do something that they’ve never been able to do before,” Livant said.

Haylee Grimes is the chief mate of the Lady Washington. As second in command, she relays orders from the captain to the crew.

“A lot of what the crew hears as far as sail commands comes from me…My favorite part about working on the ship is seeing people grow. The first day they step on board they know absolutely nothing, and they’re super overwhelmed. All of a sudden you see them telling other people where things are,” Grimes said.

Soon the Hawaiian Chieftain will be starting a new program called Sea School Northwest. The goal of the program is to get people from ages 16 to 35 on the ship and learning about the maritime industry.

“The idea is that they’ll go into industry jobs here in the Northwest. Whether it’s tugboats, ferries or cargo ships. What we’re finding is that in all of these industries a lot of the crews are nearing or at retirement age. In the next 10 years there is going to be a huge crisis for folks working on the water,” Downs said.

All of the different sailing excursions on the vessels are education based, using the ships from the Pacific Northwest to teach folks about sailing and trade in the area during the 1700s and 1800s.

For further scheduling information over the next week you can visit Grays Harbor Historical Seaport’s websitehttps://www.historicalseaport.org/

Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.

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