"All I Ask Is a Tall Ship" ~ My Photos of the Lady Washington

An 18th-Century Sailing Ship

The Lady Washington, better known as the "Interceptor" in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. (Look closely -- the film added extra gunports and bigger cannons with CGI. In reality, there's only one small gunport on each side.)
The Lady Washington, better known as the "Interceptor" in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. (Look closely -- the film added extra gunports and bigger cannons with CGI. In reality, there's only one small gunport on each side.) | Source

A Mini Sea Adventure

"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking..."

~ "Sea-Fever" by John Masefield, 1902

Do you remember the beginning of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, when Jack Sparrow and Will Turner steal a small ship and head off to Tortuga? Well, she's real, and she did not get blown up by the Black Pearl!

In real life, she is the Lady Washington, a faithful reproduction of an 18th-century square-rigged brig that was at times a cargo ship, explorer, or privateer — a "legal" pirate ship sanctioned to prey on British ships during the Revolutionary War! With mostly square sails, she probably wouldn't be "the fastest ship in the Caribbean," although she'd certainly outrace a big lumbering warship. Her sister ship the Hawaiian Chieftain,modeled on colonial passenger and mail ships, is faster. But the Lady Washington is truly a lady, and she captured my heart.

These two ships sail together up and down the west coast of the United States, stopping in various ports. They offer educational tours to schools and entertain the locals with "battle sails" in which they stage mock naval skirmishes with real cannons and gunpowder (no balls). I went out on one of these sails on a clear, beautiful afternoon in January off the coast of California, with sea lions hopping out of the water just off the bows! Pelicans, gulls and cormorants soared beside us. The sea was unusually calm that day, making picture-perfect reflections.

There's a light-hearted element to these "battle sails." The crew are dressed more or less as pirates, and they encourage guests to join in with fake pirate talk and taunts. They're very popular, so it's standing room only on deck -- more like being on a ferry than a pirate ship!

Despite the theme park ride atmosphere, I found myself enchanted with the sea-longing that I've often read about in old books like Treasure Island and Moby Dick. By the time the afternoon was over, I was ready to stow away and sail with the Lady Washington to her next port.

Next year, I might. A few tickets are available for each passage from one port to the next. Their next voyage was too far to me and my arthritis — it's cold out on the water, and you need to bring a sleeping bag and be prepared to sleep on wooden bunks — but I might try to hop aboard next year from San Diego, which is only a half day's sail to the south of Newport Beach. I'm dreaming of what it's like to spend a day aboard these lovely vessels on the open sea — no tour guides, no bustling crowd, just the wind, the heaving deck, and the crew.

If you live on the west coast, check the website below to see when these tall ships are in port near you.

Photos of Two Colonial Sailing Ships

I chose to sail aboard the Hawaiian Chieftain, because I could get better photos of the Lady Washington.
I chose to sail aboard the Hawaiian Chieftain, because I could get better photos of the Lady Washington.
The Lady Washington on Newport Bay. As Jack Sparrow said, "She's such a pretty ship."  Tall ship is no exaggeration: her main mast is 89 feel tall!
The Lady Washington on Newport Bay. As Jack Sparrow said, "She's such a pretty ship." Tall ship is no exaggeration: her mainmast is 89 feel tall!
The Hawaiian Chieftain is gorgeous, too. Here I stood on the forecastle and looked up through her sails.
The Hawaiian Chieftain is gorgeous, too. Here I stood on the forecastle and looked up through her sails.
Note a crew member hauling on ropes in the foreground. Both ships' crews were constantly adjusting the sails to catch the wind as they turned about one another.
Note a crew member hauling on ropes in the foreground. Both ships' crews were constantly adjusting the sails to catch the wind as they turned about one another.
I loved watching the sun wink between the sails (although alas, the deck was so crowded that most of my shots of it have people's heads in the way).
I loved watching the sun wink between the sails (although alas, the deck was so crowded that most of my shots of it have people's heads in the way).

Video I Filmed Aboard the Hawaiian Chieftain

Video by Charlie Bergstedt of Chieftain and Lady Washington

More by this Author


Comments 11 comments

davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

Both are beautiful and very striking ships. I was happy to read this hub and thrilled that monies were spent to create them. great hub!


My Minds Eye53 profile image

My Minds Eye53 4 years ago from Tennessee

You have done something I have only dreamed of. Great hub. gorgeous photos.

Maureen


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia

Wow! How beautiful the ship is. Your photo of the ship with the sunset behind was especially beautiful. I love the feeling of being on water. I can imagine the feel of the ship. Thank you for sharing your experience.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

Oh, wow - such beautiful ships! My parents live in Oxnard, so we'll have to catch a ride on them when they visit the Channel Islands Harbor. We have a little sailboat of our own, but our little 16' boat is puny compared to those gorgeous tall ships!


Greekgeek profile image

Greekgeek 4 years ago from California Author

Thank you, everyone! And leahlefler-- oh, yes, you must go out and see them! You'd understand them a lot better than I did, since you actually know about sailboats. If you want, tell them you'd like to haul on a line at some point; they're happy to let people help with the sails that are raised and lowered from the deck. (Although I'm crazy enough that I wished I could climb the rigging and see what it's like up top.)

You could also take out your own boat on a day when they're scheduled to sail. We had a whole armada of sailboats and pleasure boats following us out of the harbor into the bay!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

OMG! My favorite poem of all time!! The last line always brings a tear to my eye, and a choke in my voice if I'm trying to read it aloud to someone.

I LOVE the tall ships! I wish I could afford to go on one of these outings. (It's in my blood--my New England ancestors were sailors.) It would be glorious.

Many years ago, though, I got to do the next best thing. A friend of my mother was friends with the Johnsons who owned the schooner Yankee. In a roundabout way, then, she also knew the people who owned the Shenandoah, which was in port in So. Dartmouth, MA while we were visiting. We were all invited aboard, and I was allowed to climb up the ratlines for a bird's-eye-view of the harbor.

Loved your article, great photograpy and the videos.

Voted up, all around and shared.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, you have done the one thing I have always wanted to do! I am so jealous! I love old ships, I have a huge tall ship in my bedroom! it takes pride of place on my cabinet, I would love to go out on one, and your photos were amazing!


Greekgeek profile image

Greekgeek 4 years ago from California Author

Wow, thanks again. Lizzy -- well, you've done something I have dreamed of doing, going up the lines to the crow's nest (or whatever's up there)! It looks like a lot of us have dreamed of sailing on a tall ship. I have heard of the Shenandoah... I'll go look it up.

There might be other ships on the east coast that do this kind of thing, too. Their price wasn't too bad --$68, but that was for a unique and rare treat. It helped that they're a nonprofit, I am sure.


gogogo 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing, enjoyed the hub


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

Sadly, our little sailboat is with us, in Western NY! There are many times I regret the move (sigh). My parents have a decent little sailboat, though, so maybe we'll take that out again. We visit every once in a while, and the tall ships are so gorgeous. We'll definitely ask to hoist one of the sails - my parents once went on one where they were allowed to climb some of the rigging and go into the "bird's nest" off the prow. I'll have to ask them which ship they went on - they sailed out of the Channel Islands Harbor.


Taranwanderer profile image

Taranwanderer 21 months ago

Not exactly your modern-day cruise ship cabin but this looks like quite the adventure! http://hubpages.com/travel/7-Amazing-Cruise-Ship-C...

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