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Old August 21st 03, 01:35 AM
Gould 0738
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Default Story about a historic schooner

Folks from up this way will know where to find the photos that go along with
this story. (Sorry, they're not online). Even without the pictures, it's an
interesting tale about how a ship attempts to survive through changing times.


The Yosemite Indians believed the spotted owl was the guardian spirit of
Perhaps the bird's pensive, nocturnal call suggested the name they gave the
"Wawona." When Master Shipbuilder Hans Bendixsen laid the single-beam keel of
the largest three-masted schooner on the West Coast, he christened her using
that Indian word for "spotted owl."

"Wawona" was designed to transport lumber from the mills of Oregon and
Washington to rapidly expanding coastal cities. She was built of Douglas Fir,
and is 165 feet on deck, with a 36-foot beam and a draft of 11' 6". She
displaces 468 tons. Nine-inch thick frames were covered with planks that varied
from 4 to 6 inches in thickness. The clear fir planks average 16-inches in
width, and some are up to 120-feet in length. Deck beams are 13"X13", and
35-feet in length. Knees cut from carefully selected tree stumps support the
deck beams; (the natural grain of the stump follows the bend of the knee). She
was built with a double hull, utilizing 8-inch thick "ceiling" planks to line
the hold. The mass and thickness of the hull made Wawona heavy enough to sail
without ballast. When she ran down the ways in 1897, she had cost $29,075 to
build. It is doubtful she could be built today at any price- we haven't enough
large fir trees left on the planet to recreate her timbers.

For seventeen years she scurried up and down the Pacific Coast, hauling over a
half million board feet of lumber in a typical load from Puget Sound to San
Francisco Bay.
Much of the cargo would be stacked on deck, up to ten feet above the gunwales,
and the eight or nine man crew would work the ship from atop the lumber piles.
The ship's crew would double as longshoremen, working six, seven, or eight long
days in succession to off load "Wawona's" lumber at the destination port. By
1914, changing economics and a growing preference for steam powered vessels
fostered a change in Wawona's ownership and mission; she was sold to Robinson
Fisheries Company in Anacortes.

Robinson converted her to a cod-fishing vessel. She would sail to the Bering
Sea every spring, where her crew of about three dozen fishermen, idlers,
dressers, salters, and cooks would fill her hold with salted cod. As many as
twenty cod dories were stacked on the deck of "Wawona", and would be launched
just after sunrise every morning. The dorymen would catch cod on hand lines
until the small boats were loaded, and then row back to "Wawona" to unload the
catch. Fifteen and eighteen hour workdays were common. Fishermen were paid
only a few cents for each fish, but it was not unusual for a fisherman to earn
enough in a single season to buy a modest house. "Wawona" set a record for the
number of codfish harvested by a single vessel; the catch totaled almost 7
million cod by 1940. The cod would be covered with salt and stacked in the hold
until the load reached the deck beams. The heavy salt content of her cargo
during the fishing years "pickled" the wood, and helped preserve her hull.

"Wawona" had sailed for 45 years when WWII erupted. She was commandeered by the
US Army, and dismasted to be used as a lumber barge. "Wawona" hauled Alaska
Yellow Cedar during the war, and much of the wood was used to by Boeing to
build seaplanes. Following the war, new masts were stepped and she fished
another two seasons in Alaska. By 1948, changing technologies and techniques in
the Alaska cod fishery rendered "Wawona" economically obsolete once again.

In the 1950's, a number of short-term owners and partners (including actor Gary
Cooper) dreamed big dreams for "Wawona." Plans to convert her to a cruise ship
foundered for lack of money. Another plan to use her to transport cattle to
Russia was scuttled when her owners could not successfully negotiate a contract
with the Russian government.

"Wawona" languished at the dock for several years, and had been scheduled for
breakup. A group of concerned citizens known as "Save Our Ships" bought her in
1964 and moved her to Kirkland. SOS hoped to convert "Wawona" to a maritime
museum. In 1981, she was moved from Kirkland to South Lake Union, where she
lies today at the Northwest Seaport facility.

"Wawona" is open to the public. Admission is free, but donations are most
welcome and sorely needed. A moment in time is a fragile thing, and nature has
been attempting to reclaim "Wawona's" bones almost as quickly as a crew of
volunteer shipwrights has been able to find the time and funding to restore
her. Once again, "Wawona" may be approaching a crossroad of destiny. City of
Seattle plans for the area include a "Maritime" park that will incorporate the
Northwest Seaport facility. While that might appear to help assure the future
restoration of "Wawona," politics may confound the best intentions of the
Northwest Seaport volunteers.

One of the Northwest Seaport staff told Nor'westing "The South Lake Union Park
is going to have a pier for historic ships, but we have been informally warned
that the city will only want fully restored, museum quality ships moored there.
We may be faced with the prospect of finding new moorage for "Wawona" as well
as a new place to work on her.

Such an attitude would be shameful. Area residents should be able to experience
and appreciate the atmosphere of a working waterfront. Creating an area so
sanitized that a high heeled dowager can drive up in a Lexus and look at the
"cute old boats" without fear of getting her silk polo pants dusty should be
less of a priority than preserving our NW workboat heritage.

Why is it important to save "Wawona" and other old ships? Immediately after
Wawona had been purchased by Save Our Ships, she was open for public display in
Seattle. A young teenager and his grandfather were among the first aboard to
inspect her. The grandfather had served as an officer in the British Navy
during the First World War, and had graduated from the Royal Naval Hospital
School in Greenwich at a time when all British officers were still taught to
command a ship under sail. A newspaper reporter was on hand to write a story
about the public viewing of the old schooner, and he followed the old man and
the boy around while the grandfather explained in colorful and elaborate detail
how the ship was built, rigged, and how a crew would have worked to sail her.
For an hour or so, the grandfather and grandson weren't separated by two
generations, but were fellow voyagers on a sea of tradition, memory,
imagination, and adventure. The fascinated, eavesdropping reporter pressed the
old seaman for an interview, but Grandpa declined. (I made the paper that
evening, however, giving the reporter something to print with a profound quote
along the line of "It's sure a neat boat!") With any vessel over 100 years old,
there must be ten thousand similar tales. Perhaps someday it would be
interesting to tell another young man about a visit to "Wawona" with his great,
great grandfather- but that story and the other 9,999 will be more likely
forgotten if the old ship is allowed to molder away.

"Wawona" was the first ship placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The other surviving three-masted schooner built by Bendixsen is being restored
as a working museum at a California port. $9mm in federal funding has been
earmarked for the California project. "It's a shame," remarked Northwest
Seaport staffers, "that all the restoration money went to California. They are
hiring most of the work done, but here in Seattle we could use a greater number
of local volunteers and some of our own staff here at Northwest Seaport. We
could probably finish a full restoration of "Wawona," maybe even get her
sailing again, for about two million dollars."

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Old August 21st 03, 06:16 AM
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Default Story about a historic schooner

"Gould 0738" wrote in message
Folks from up this way will know where to find the photos that go along

this story. (Sorry, they're not online). Even without the pictures,

This isn't it?

Google Image search....

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Old August 21st 03, 08:15 AM
Gould 0738
Posts: n/a
Default Story about a historic schooner

This isn't it?

Google Image search....

That's a good archive photo of "Wawona" hauling lumber. I've got a lot of
contemporary pictures that are not on-line.
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Old August 21st 03, 04:29 PM
Gould 0738
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Default Story about a historic schooner

Probably one of Wawona's biggest obstacles to getting public interest and
raising more funds is lack of a good website. Without one, Wawona will always
of limited interest and get minimal attention outside it's immediate locale.


The e-commerce model. Only works with sufficient energy expended to
(constantly) inform people about the website. And I have yet to see a website
"close" anybody on a major expense or complex idea. :-)

To raise $2mm, particularly in economically emaciated Seattle these days, you
need a full time fundraiser, a $10k a month fundraising budget, a website, and
a little bit of luck.

Boaters in WA have had the chance to add a little extra to the annual
registration fee, to create a fund tho help preserve and restore ships like
this. Most don't.

Public and private money, and countless volunteer hours, recently restored the
Virginian V steam ferry. There was a lot more emotional support for the V5. She
was used to haul thousands upon thousands of kids from Seattle to various
summer camps in the 50's, 60's, and 70's.
Many of those summer campers retained
idyllic memories of cruising on the boat. They are now well into their peak
earning years or retired and feeling slightly more charitable. The V5 was in
active use as a charter boat until just a few yers ago when the CG pulled her
cert (due to rotting keel, if I recall correctly). She was a fixture in the
annual lighted boat parades in December. It wasn't an easy task, but the money
and community support to restore that boat ultimately materialized.

Raising money for a boat like Wawona is tougher. She hasn't been actively
sailing local waters within the living memory of most Washingtonians, and
instead of ferrying 7 million rowdy summer campers, she has hauled 7 million
salted codfish to market. The group that has her now is doing an admirable job
with limited resources. Entire sections of the hull have been reframed, and
quite a bit of the outer planking has been replaced on the starboard side. (Not
long ago, she was turned at the wharf to allow work to proceed on the port
side.) She has had new rigging installed.

There is much more to do. Entire sections of the superstructure (from the
codfishing configuration) are gone, the foc'sle is an empty void. The deck is
having a race with the ravages of time and the winner remains unclear.

The fundraising environment is really tough right now throughout the country.
My daughter just landed a job with a major non-profit org in NYC. She is fresh
out of grad school-again- and was surprised she was the chosen candidate. When
this particular organization has an opening, they typically receive 10-20
resume's from qualified applicants. With the economy where it's at these days,
private philanthropy is way, way down and non profit organizations are cutting
payrolls like crazy. My daughter competed with several dozen experienced
applicants for her position.

Sort of debunks the "faith-based charity funded by huge tax cuts" approach to
social services. Whatever the recipients of
the tax cuts are doing with the money, it isn't showing up in any sort of
increased contribution to non-profit and charitable organizations. One of the
reasons charitable contributions are down is that
with lower tax rates in place for the folks with the most discretionary income,
tax deduction for charitable donations is less attractive than before. Tough as
it may be to imagine, some people donate
less money when there's less difference between the pre-tax and afer-tax

NW Seaport's guesstimate that $2million would finish the restoration is only
realistic because there are enough skilled shipwrights around who are willing
to volunteer some time to perform the labor.

Once one of these old ships arrives at the point where it can be considered
"restored", the expenses continue. Anybody owning a boat can attest that the
money doesn't stop flowing into the hull when the most recent repair is
finished or the ink is dry on the bill of sale. "-)

One useful technique is to turn the restored vessel into a money maker,
(hosting wedding receptions, etc etc etc)
but that type of effort will seldom generate all the money it takes to keep an
old boat viable. Other options are less attractive.
(Painting the boat red and white with an enormous Coca-Cola logo on the hull
would be an example!)

Restoring and maintaining Wawona has required, and will continue to require, a
lot of money. Is the community willing to shake the private piggy bank hard
enough to dislodge the funds? There are certainly many who feel that if the
community isn't willing to rescue a historic resource with private funds, it
should be allowed to disintegrate. We can be thankful that previous generations
didn't have that same attitude- there'd be nothing left in the United States
over 50 years old unless it had a specific, profitable, economic purpose.

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Old August 22nd 03, 01:03 AM
Gould 0738
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Default Story about a historic schooner

Your idea of a website is a good one. It's interesting to see Gould's
reaction to your worthwhile suggestion.

A website can be a very valuable tool, but it isn't the be-all and end-all. It
takes a concerted effort to direct people to the address for a website to be

Actually, there have been websites with the story of the "Wawona" for several
years, and the need continues nonetheless.

Binary Bill isn't wrong to say that a website can be helpful.

Websites are most effective when used as part of an overall advertising
Here's a comment from One World Telecommunications (a company that specializes
in electronic and computerized marketing) that addresses the subject fairly
Successful Internet business owners have learned that online marketing tools
aren't enough to compete in today's marketplace. Traditional advertising
remains a crucial way to increase public awareness and help you reach your
Internet goals. Trade magazines often publish new surveys which indicate most
Internet users continute to learn about new sites via advertising in
newspapers, magazines, and other offline resources.
So I stand by my comment: A website is only really effective if there's an
adequate amount of attention devoted to directing people to the site.

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