The tall ship Lady Washington, led by a row boat, motored into Bodega Bay Tuesday morning with sails furled because the winds were on her bow.
Unlike modern sailboats that can travel upwind, the traditionally-rigged Lady Washington must have wind off her stern. But even with her sails rolled up, the tall masts and complex web of stays made her entry into Bodega Bay at 8:30 a.m. no less impressive than if she has sailed in.
Docked at Spud Point Marina, the Lady Washington will participate in a week-long celebration commemorating the arrival 200 years ago of the Russian settlers who established Fort Ross.
The Lady Washington, a replica of a merchant sloop built in the British Colony of Massachusetts in the 1750s, is similar to the vessel that was used by Ivan Kuskov, an employee of the Russian American Company who led the construction of Fort Ross beginning on March 15, 1812.
Its companion ship, the Hawaiian Chieftain, a replica of a European merchant trader that roamed the seas at the turn of the nineteenth century, arrived Monday night at about 8 p.m. Both are docked at Spud Point where public tours will be conducted all week.
But it's the Lady Washington, because she is more historically correct, that will be the focus of Bodega Bay's celebration of the Sonoma County coast's Russian history.
Back then, Bodega Bay was called Port Rumiantsev, established in 1809 and held under Russian rule for 33 years. Three years after it was founded, Kuskov returned on a ship called the Chirikov with the goal of establishing a fort settlement.
He searched points north of Port Rumiantsev for an ideal site, including the areas of what are now Jenner and the Russian River, said Adri Boudewyn, the organizer of the tall ships visit.
Boudewyn said the Russians decided to build where Fort Ross now stands because it was on high ground and would be easier to defend against the Spanish garrisoned at the San Francisco Bay.
Port Rumiantsev was the Russian Empire's southernmost port on the Pacific Coast.
"Kuskov had a vision on behalf of his boss," Boudewyn said Tuesday morning, shortly after the Lady Washington docked at the marina. "They would build a fort, grow agriculture, hunt sea otter for fur and seals."
Though Kuskov's stay in Port Rumiantsev was brief, it nevertheless represents an important part of Bodega Bay's history.
"Until January 1842, the port here remained under Russian rule," Boudewyn said.
Several events celebrating this history are planned for the week. On Friday, from 5 to 7 p.m., a Fishermans Festival vodka tasting and caviar fund-raiser will be held at Bodega Harbour Yacht Club.
On Saturday the Tides Wharf will host day-long exhibits describing Port Rumiantsev's role in the establishment and construction of Fort Ross. At 7 p.m. Saturday, a performing arts group called the Russian Collection will be featured at the Bodega Bay Grange Hall.
Boudewyn said the tall ships will take to the open water over this weekend to conduct mock battles. The ships will be open for public tours at the dock Wednesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, the ships will host dock tours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Donations of $3 per person are suggested.
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