Shipped Off To Camp

Authentic sailing ships take attention to detail.

Lady Washington is reserved for family groups, and Hawaiian Chieftain hosts youths 11 to 17 years old. Traveling together, the ships sail among the islands, anchoring off a number of state park islands.

Guests are encouraged, but not required, to perform many of the tasks of a traditional tall-ship sailor: stand watch, take the wheel (or the tiller, in the case of Lady Washington), and even climb the rigging.

Once at an anchorage, guests and crew row 18th-century-style longboats to shore and set up camp. On the island, guests can join staff to hike the island, swim in the salt water, or explore a tide pool.

Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain are not cruise ships–there aren’t any waiters in waistcoats here. The Historical Seaport markets Expedition Voyages and its Passages–one- to eight-day open-ocean voyages–primarily to the adventure traveler or the person who can accept limited facilities.

Guests sleep in bunks aboard, campsites are primitive, and showers are impossible. During Expedition Voyages, the crew invites guests to plan the daily itinerary, taking into account weather forecasts, tides, and currents at anchorages.

Additional Wrinkles

Though many campgrounds and outdoor recreation areas offer similar hands-on programs, Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain have one unique limitation: they are constantly surrounded by water. Even at an anchorage, they may be several hundred feet from shore. Everything must be transported from ship to shore and back by small boat.

The margin of safety is smaller; an individual can suffer hypothermia in only a few minutes after falling into the 55-degree water. And it can take hours for help to arrive.

“You have to be ready and fully trained to implement an emergency response at all times,” says Capt. Les Bolton, GHHSA’s executive director. “Dialing 911 is not necessarily going to get you what you need.”

He recalled an incident off the Oregon Coast on Lady Washington during a storm involving a diabetic who could not keep any food or liquids down, forcing the ship to alert the Coast Guard and divert to an unscheduled stop.

Training is the key, and the crews run daily drills, such as man-overboard or fire-fighting exercises, to maintain readiness.

The ships pass an annual Coast Guard inspection, and inspectors pay special attention to safety equipment, such as the life rafts.

Key members of the crew–the master, the mate, and the engineer–hold Coast Guard licenses. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security requires masters and mates to carry a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, intended to control who can access sensitive areas of ports and other transportation facilities.

Beyond safety and security, large sailing vessels have special insurance needs. In addition to a standard liability and collision-damage coverage, the Historical Seaport purchases insurance to cover crew members who climb aloft to handle sails. Federal laws similar to state workers compensation are also covered in the insurance policies. The policies comply with state laws in California, Oregon, Washington, and the province of British Columbia.

In a few cases, specific ports require additional liability coverage. And unlike ground and air transportation, ships come under a specialized set of international rules called “admiralty law,” which governs maritime questions.

The growing body of environmental regulations also touches Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. All waste is stored in tanks and discharged at a dock facility. In 2010, Lady Washington required a $100,000 upgrade to her power plant, or the Historical Seaport risked violating California’s stringent air-pollution standards. And recently, the Environmental Protection Agency issued rules requiring permits for engine cooling water, allowing any water, even rain and seawater during a storm, to run off the deck into the sea.

And don’t forget the gunpowder, which requires its own special training, storage, handling, and government inspections.

Worth The Effort

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