The Lady Washington’s Short but Eventful Life

the Lady Washington

 In August, a few days before the eclipse, two tall ships sailed into town: the Lady Washington and its companion vessel, the Hawaiian Chieftain.

the Hawaiian Chieftain

They tied up at a couple of docks along the Edmonds waterfront where I often take walks, so I stopped by to take a look. A crew member had conveniently placed a step beside the Hawaiian Chieftain, and since he was offering his hand, I took it and climbed aboard.

a little visitor at the wheel

below deck

sturdy ropes and casual knots

Of the two ships, the Lady Washington is the larger one and the one with a more interesting story. She is the official tall ship of Washington State. But it wasn’t our state that gave her her name. She’s a full-scale replica of the original Lady Washington which was named after Martha Washington.

The original Lady Washington left Boston Harbor in 1787 and for the next ten years sailed the world. Here’s some of what she accomplished:

* She was the first American-flagged ship to sail around Cape Horn.

* She traded furs with Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest

and took part in the tea and porcelain trade in China.

* She was the first American-flagged vessel to reach Japan. Commodore Mathew Perry didn’t sail into Tokyo Bay until 62 years later.

* Another couple of firsts: visiting Honolulu and Hong Kong.

Finally, in 1797, after her short but history-making life, the Lady Washington foundered in the Philippines.

Lady Washington masthead

masthead on Hawaiian Chieftain

Her namesake has also had some shining moments. She appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; she was Captain Hook’s ship in Once Upon a Time; she played a prominent role in Blackbeard; and she was in the Macklemore video for Can’t Hold Us.

On more ordinary days, the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain and their crews visit ports up and down the West Coast where they educate students, welcome the curious, and offer cruises. When they were in Edmonds, they had a special eclipse cruise.

Nothing’s more graceful that a ship at full sail. But since the two ships didn’t hoist their sails while I was there, I missed out on that sight. I did, however, enjoy the patterns made by their ropes and riggings and the view of a daring man climbing the masts.

Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain

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About Nicki Chen

About Nicki Chen
Nicki Chen is a writer living in Edmonds, WA. Her first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is set in China during the Japanese invasion and occupation, 1937-1945. She’s working on a second novel set in Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation where she and her late husband lived in the early ’90s.

Edmonds, Washington State , , , ,

20 comments


  1. I agree Nicki. A ship at full sail is magnificent. Thanks for sharing these amazing vessels and their history. Your photographs are wonderful!




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    • I probably should have stayed around until the ships set sail, but I was ready to eat lunch by then.

      Yesterday at the Write on the Sound Conference, I saw another pretty sight. As the session was getting underway, I looked out the window, and there were hundreds of sailboats out on Puget Sound. It must have been a race. They weren’t tall ships; nevertheless, all those white sails against the blue water painted a pretty picture.




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  2. Wow! Great photos, Nicki! Since I saw that Pirates of the Caribbean movie, I must have seen Lady Washington. 😀 So glad you had a chance to visit!




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  3. Every so often, they film tall ships sailing around the Palos Verdes Peninsula — pretty sure I’ve seen Lady Washington under full sail. So pretty.




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  4. We strolled on the dock to see the ships too. There’s something about a sailing ship that makes one dream of adventure.




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    • Sailing ships and books about sailing ships make one dream about adventure. Treasure Island was one of the favorite books of my childhood. Before we moved to Vanuatu, I read or reread a bunch of adventurous books about the South Pacific by Robert Louis Stevenson, Somerset Maugham, Jack London, and James Michener. Such a rough and romantic time.




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  5. victor

    she was also seen in Star Trek Next Generation – in the holodeck
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfF4Jq478_s

    The Lady is steered with a tiller. for the filming, they put in a wheel for show, and used a much smaller, unseen tiller to steer

    for the filming of Pirates, she DID sail to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal

    the original Lady set sail along with the Columbia Rediviva; they got separated along the way and The Lady got here first; the Columbia is the model used for Disneyland’s sailing ship on The Rivers of America

    i forgot the details, but there was an incident with the original crew up in Vancouver, the crew just about or did wipe out an Indian village!

    circa 2005, in the summer, the current Lady Washington returned to acknowledge and apologize for the incident.




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    • Thank you, Victor, for all the interesting information about the Lady Washington. I hadn’t heard that sad story about the crew wiping out an Indian village. It’s good to hear an apology was finally given.




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  6. Tall ships are always worth the time to check out. Our oldest and youngest sons sailed on the USCG Eagle, a tall ship that is used as a training vessel. Those crazy guys both climbed the tallest mast.




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  7. One of our favorite vacations included a Windjammer Cruise off the coast of Maine ~ under full sail, we flew!

    Great shots & interesting history, Nicki.




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