Tall ships call on Ilwaco

Baker Bay, on which Ilwaco is located, served as the anchorage for ocean-going sailing vessels for decades between the arrival of the first Lady Washington in 1792 and the mid-1800s, when maritime commerce shifted away from the Columbia's north channel to its more easily navigable south channel past Astoria. Last week's visit of Lady Washington's modern replica and the Lynx, an interpretation of a U.S. privateer from the War of 1812, attracted several thousand visitors to the Port of Ilwaco, including many local school children.<I><BR>DAMIAN MULINIX photo</I>

Popular replicas of historic vessels attract big crowds to portPORT OF ILWACO - "There are pirates in town. Hide your money and protect your women," Ilwaco Merchants Association President Bruce Peterson said last week during a reception for the crews of the tall ships Lady Washington and the 1812 privateer Lynx.

"The ships are objects of grace and beauty," Peterson said.

It was indeed pirate week at the Port of Ilwaco after the ships arrived Wednesday, cannons booming. The "grand arrival" heralded five days of tours of the ships as well as voyages into the Columbia River.

The ships' first docking ever at the Port of Ilwaco was a huge success from all reports. No one knows for sure, but estimates range from 500 to 1,000 people stood in line, waiting to board the replica ships on the first day. "The phone was off the hook all morning Wednesday," the port's office manager and auditor Melissa Stern said last week. Crowds continued throughout the ships' five-day visit to Ilwaco. The ships moved west to Holman Dock Thursday afternoon.

At the reception for the crew Wednesday night, business owners from Ocean Park to Ilwaco got a chance to meet and mingle with the crew, who came late to the bash because they didn't want to disappoint people who had waited in line as much as two hours to tour the ships.

The crews were warmly welcomed by port merchants who provided meals, hot showers and beds.

According to information from Grays Harbor Historical Seaport in Aberdeen, home port of the Lady Washington, the original Lady Washington, under the command of Capt. Robert Gray, first sailed into Northwest waters in the spring of 1788 from her home port of Boston, becoming the first American vessel to make landfall on the West Coast of what would become the United States.

The Lady Washington and her "consort," the Columbia Rediviva, "were instrumental not only in opening up a trade route between the newly independent colonies and the Orient, but also in establishing the basis for an American territorial claim to what would later become the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho."

Under the command of Capt. John Kendrick, the Lady Washington became the first American vessel to make landfall in Japan.

The Lynx is an interpretation of an actual privateer named Lynx built by Thomas Kemp in 1812 in Fell's Point, Md., and which was among the first ships to defend American freedom by evading the British naval fleet then blockading American ports. The modern version was launched on July 28, 2001, in Rockport, Maine.

The two tall ships have partnered on a two-month West Coast "voyage of discovery" that began April 9 in Sausalito, Calif., and will end June 18 in Port Angeles where they will join the Tall Ships 2005 events. They will return to Ilwaco the first week in June.

According to the Lynx Web site, "We welcome this opportunity to be sailing with (the Lady Washington)," said Jeffrey Woods, director of operations for Woods Maritime, owner and operator of the Lynx, based in Newport Beach, Calif.

Displacing 114 tons, the Lynx is 78 feet overall with a 23-foot beam and a draft of nine feet. Lady Washington displaces 205 tons, is 67 feet overall with a 22-foot beam and a draft of 11 feet.

The dual voyage will highlight the educational programs of the two vessels. Both programs stress early American maritime traditions as well as focus on navigation and life at sea. In addition, interactive instruction in seamanship, sail training and the study of historical, environmental and ecological issues are featured.

"We are also excited about doing battle with Lady Washington," Woods said. "With our superior speed, we should be making quick work of her."

Capt. Les Bolton, executive director of Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, said "It should be quite a match-up. Vessels like Lynx were designed to chase down and overpower vessels like Lady Washington. Still, our crew loves a challenge and we have a few tricks, we won't make it easy for that rakish privateer."

Both vessels were involved in the making of the movie, "Pirates of the Caribbean." The Lynx was used to train the crew and actors in the intricacies of sailing a period pirate ship prior to filming and Lady Washington was featured as the HMS Interceptor in the film.

Lynx Capt. Douglas Leasure and Lady Washington Capt. Ryan Meyer will use radios to prevent accidents, but otherwise, the crews will compete to out-sail, out-maneuver and out-gun each other.

From Ilwaco, the ships sailed up the Columbia River this week to Kalama, St. Helens, Vancouver and Camas and will return to Ilwaco June 3 to 6 before heading to Westport and Port Angeles.

More information on the vessels is available at (www.privateerlynx.com) and (www.ladywashington.org).

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