Battle Sail!

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The boys and I went to the Olympia Harbor Days today and went out on the Lady Washington for a battle sail. The Lady Washington is a tall ship sailing vessel, a replica of the original Lady Washington that traded for furs in the Northwest in the late 18th century; she was recently named the official Tall Ship Ambassador for the State of Washington (nice to see the state legislature really working hard...) She's was also the Interceptor in Pirates of the Caribbean and in Star Trek: Generations. She often sails with her companion, the Hawaiian Chieftain, another replica tall ship, as she did today. During a battle sail, the two ships maneuver for position and shoot blanks at each other with their cannons.

Lady's crew aloft shaking out the sails. Hawaiian Chieftain headed down for us with a fleet of spectator boats in.

The Chieftain appeared to hold all the cards. They are a little bigger, a little faster, and better armed. (Chieftain carries four three pound deck guns to Lady's two three pound deck guns and two one pound swivel guns aft.) What's more, today, she had the weather gage (she was upwind of  us), which is normally a huge advantage in sail combat. Once we motored out into Budd Inlet and raised sail, Chieftain fired a shot to signal the start of hostilities and then bore down on us. As she drew near (slowly in the light winds), we unleashed a salvo from our deck gun and swivel gun. Chieftain was unable to respond since she doesn't carry any guns that face forward. We tried to tack repeatedly, but in the shifty, light winds we had difficulty (never really tacking). As we flopped around, we blasted Chieftain several more times. Chieftain never got a clean shot at us and resorted to firing at the pleasure boats that were watching the battle. (It's OK by me to sink a few Bayliners.) According to the captain, they typically try to keep the fights pretty even otherwise the passengers on one ship get bummed, but today, I declare us to be the clear winner.

Firing the swivel gun (note the flecks of alumninum foil shooting out. The charge is wrapped in foil and then blasted out. Note the jet of flame coming out of the touchhole.

The ship itself was cool. I've been on tons of tall ships before, but I've never sailed on one. It was neat to see how all the stuff works and how much harder it is to do everything than on a modern sailboat. They definitely have a hard time pointing (sailing upwind) and tacking. The crew was nice and seemed to know what they were doing; they have a mix of volunteers and paid crew. I'm seriously considering doing their two week volunteer training where you live onboard for two weeks and learn the ropes (literally). They do an evaluation, and if you pass, you can be a long term volunteer with them. It would be very fun.

Unfortunately, the boys didn't love it. Michael (7) for all his swagger, doesn't really like loud noises, so the cannon fire wasn't a hit with him. Andrew (10) had a better time but somehow got it in his mind that he was going to help with the cannons and be allowed to go aloft, so he was a little disappointed. However, he is game to go on their week-long family expeditions they do in the San Juan Islands every year. I'd love to do that with him next summer.

One a side note, this is the first time I've really done anything in Olympia (which is the state capitol.) It's pretty small and a bit worn out, but the area by the water front looks very fun.

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