If it looks like a scene from the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean,” that’s because it is.
The two tall ships that visited Astoria last week offer a delightful opportunity for photographers of all skill levels.
And when they dock, the enthusiasm of the guides who welcome visitors aboard — and take them out on the Columbia River on battle cruises — is worth its weight in doubloons.
The mission of the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport is quite remarkable in this day and age. Its leaders seek to recreate — and preserve — those rugged old days before steam engines forever changed the nature of ocean sailing.
Steeped in history almost as old as this nation, the original Lady Washington is believed to be the first American-made vessel to make landfall on the West Coast of North America in 1788 and the first to visit Japan and Hong Kong.
Leaders at the city of Aberdeen, Washington, set in motion a nonprofit group to create and maintain a replica sailing ship clear back in 1986.
The authentic-looking brig was built as close to the original as possible by skilled shipwrights and launched as part of Washington’s 1989 state centennial commemorations. Coast Guard inspections of all aspects of the vessel — including its three miles of rigging — maintain its seaworthiness.
Its smaller companion vessel, Hawaiian Chieftain, has also appeared in movies. The steel-hulled, flat-bottomed vessel was originally a private yacht and later a working cargo ship in Hawaii. It had several owners before the Grays Harbor group jumped in to purchase it.
Its function isn’t just creating photo opportunities for wannabe buccaneers. The Hawaiian Chieftain is home to Sea School Northwest, an innovative training course which sets cadets on a course to earning an entry-level Coast Guard Ordinary Seafarer Certification.
And both ships invite thousands of school students each year for memorable field trips that take a step back into history. There are also opportunities for adults to join the crew and learn about seamanship in its “two weeks before the mast” programs. There is even a program designed for potential sailors who are prone to seasickness.
Those of us living in a maritime region recognize these tall ships as a priceless investment of time and energy; the foresight of its creators 30 years ago is commendable. Long may they sail.
On behalf of Astoria and our Washington neighbors in Ilwaco, we are delighted to welcome the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain back any time they care to visit.
For more about the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain log on to historicalseaport.org