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Early Sailing Ships Visit Northwest Communities

The first American ship to round Cape Horn and touch shore in Oregon near today’s Tillamook was the Lady Washington, named for President Washington’s wife, Martha.  Capt. Robert Gray sailed the 90-ton sloop from Boston to the Pacific Northwest in the late 1700’s to trade for otter pelts.

The Lady Washington was also the first American ship to land in Japan during an unsuccessful voyage to sell otter pelts. Later, the ship sailed to China to trade for tea and porcelain.

The Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority in Aberdeen, Wash., built a replica of the timber-framed Lady Washington in 1989. The authority also built an adaptation of another early sailing vessel -- the steel-hulled ketch Hawaiian Chieftain.

Every year, the two ships sail along the Pacific Coast, spending a few days in Newport, Ore., and other communities. Their crews invite the public aboard and simulate skirmishes with real gun powder and booming canons firing blanks.  The ships crews, as they put it, reach out “to sailors and (land) lubbers of all ages through the romance of the sea in the hope they take a little … history back with them.”

Sources: "Update: Columbia River Voyage July and August 2015." Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority. Web. 22 July 2015. http://historicalseaport.org/media/press-archive/;  "Lady Washington." Wikipedia. 18 May 2015. Web. 22 July 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Washington; Alexander, Patrick. “Tall Stories.” Oregon Coast Today, 16 May 2014 [Lincoln City, Ore.]: 10+.Print.

Dr. James S. Long was an As It Was contributor until his passing in January of 2016. He met editor Kernan Turner when Kernan spoke to the Roseburg writers’ club about contributing to JPR's As Is Was series. His contributions to As It Was ranged from a story about the recovery of whitetail deer at the old Dunning Ranch to the story of Nick Botner’s private orchard near Yoncalla created to preserve over 3,000 heritage apple varieties.