Tall sailing ships set for return to Bodega Bay

Two ever-popular sailing ships called the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain will be back in Bodega Bay late next week, drawing crowds eager for permission to come aboard for mock cannon battles or simply to tour the decks and imagine maritime life in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It’s the first time in three years the tall ships have returned to the harbor, where, despite its remote location, the crowds always have been sizable, even overwhelming.

Demand for tickets this year has been higher than expected, and the so-called “battle sails” on April 16 and 17 could easily sell out, according to Joe Follansbee, communications director for Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, the Aberdeen, Wash.-based nonprofit group that owns the vessels.

The mock skirmishes include real cannons and gunpowder, though no cannon balls are used. There’s “verbal taunting,” as well.

“Our mission is hands-on maritime history education, but we like to have fun, too,” Follansbee said, “so we have created these battle sails to do that.”

The boats, though designed with historic accuracy in mind, both were built in recent decades.

The 112-foot Lady Washington, completed in 1989, is a replica of a vessel built in the mid-18th century that was among the first U.S.-flagged vessels to round Cape Horn and reach the Pacific Northwest, Follansbee said.

The 104-foot Hawaiian Chieftain is an interpretation of a typical coastal trader of the early 19th century constructed of steel, he said.

Both are equipped with modern safety gear and are inspected by the Coast Guard.

The ships are scheduled to arrive at Spud Point Marina on Wednesday in the late afternoon or evening. They will be open to walk-on tours between 4 and 5 p.m. April 14 and 15, and from 2 to 5 p.m. April 16 and 17.

A $3 donation is requested.

The mock naval skirmishes will run from 9 a.m. to noon April 16 and 17, with each ship accommodating about 40 ticketed passengers.

Prices are $39 for children 12 and under, $67 for students, seniors and active military personnel, and $75 for adults.

Tickets are available online at or by calling 800-200-5239.

Educational programs for a variety of local schools will run during the day April 14, 15 and 18, Follansbee said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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