Spectators and crews members of the Lady Washington tallship, gaze up at the ship's rigging Wednesday at the Rio Vista city dock. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)


Traveling back in time: Tall ship visit brings 1700s to life

By From page C1 | November 04, 2012

RIO VISTA — After graduating from  Hendrix College in Arkansas, Braeden Hall decided it was time to take a break from capitalism and consumerism.

He sold everything and headed off to the Czech Republic to work with the organization World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Joining him was longtime friend Brooke Irwin.

Their visas were about to expire when another opportunity presented itself – serving as crew members aboard the Lady Washington, a replica of a cargo ship used in the mid-1700s. Less than 24 hours after returning to American soil, the two were aboard the tall ship.

Irwin was cooking up a dinner of fish and mashed potatoes for the crew Wednesday while Hall met guests and handled some chores.

“I haven’t heard this much English in a long time,” Hall said, sitting on deck.

He is a petty officer on the ship. It’s a volunteer post. He is compensated with room and board.

The Lady Washington was docked in Rio Vista Wednesday through Friday. The first visitors were a group of fourth-graders from St. Peter Lutheran School in Lodi. During their three-hour sail, the children got first-hand experience of life aboard the ship, helping with the sails and other chores.

After their trip, they gathered for a group picture, with the tall ship serving as the backdrop. The children insisted Calen Swift, the ship’s steward and education coordinator, join them.

The boat was also open Wednesday and Thursday for public tours. Once aboard, guests could hear stories from the crew members, such as first mate Darryl Hall. As a Boy Scout, he fell in love with sailing. That, combined with his fascination with mechanical things, make it an ideal job.

Darryl Hall has been with the nonprofit Grays Harbor Historical Seaport off and on for almost 20 years. The nonprofit operates the Lady Washington. Hall said he enjoys the smaller ports, such as Rio Vista.

“You feel like part of the community,” Darry Hall said.

During public tours, Darryl Hall answers a bevy of questions, ranging from the two cannons on board to how much rope is on the ship.

“We can fire them,” he said of the cannons. They do not fire projectiles.

The 112-foot-long vessel has about six miles of rope on board.

Above deck, Darryl Hall said, the ship looks like it would have in the 1700s.

“Below deck is totally modern, if you consider 1900 modern,” he said, with a smile. There is a kitchen where Irwin spends much of her day. Sleeping quarters are tight.

When Darryl Hall isn’t sailing, he’s at Fort Nisqually, a living history museum in Point Defiance Park outside Tacoma, Wash. “I find I get my batteries charged with teaching,” he said of the two jobs.

Visitors Gerry and Vivien Smith, who just moved to Rio Vista from Yosemite, toured the ship with “Geo Bear,” part of a school project for a grandson in the second grade. Before boarding, “Geo Bear” was photographed in front of the ship.

“I can’t believe people were able to go across the ocean on a ship this size,” Gerry Smith said. “I’d like to see it under sail.”

“We can hope for a strong wind,” Vivien Smith said.

“A delta breeze,” Gerry Smith quipped.

The ship will host sailing excursions Sunday in Antioch. One-way trips between ports are also offered.

The Lady Washington was recently featured in the ABC TV program “Once Upon a Time,” as Captain Hook was introduced to the list of characters. It served as the Jolly Roger. Because there is no TV on board, the crew went to the San Francisco Yacht Club to watch the episode. One of the Lady Washington’s captains had a bit part in the episode.

Swift, who is usually the first crew member seen, has to remind people that the Lady Washington is not a pirate ship. However, she did play the HMS Interceptor in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

“This represents an age gone by,” Swift said of the ship. “This was the height of transportation.”

Swift boarded in Kirkland, Wash. The Sonoma County resident said it was an unforgettable sight as the Lady Washington sailed into the San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge. Most of the crew watched it from the yard. “It was one of the most beautiful sights,” Swift said.

For more information on the Lady Washington, visit www.historicalseaport.org.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

This corrects an earlier version of the story.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.

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