Aberdeen – A former volunteer in the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority’s “Two Weeks Before the Mast” program has donated $50,000 to the organization in support of the Historical Seaport’s work changing people’s lives. Ken Birdwell, who lives in the Seattle area, served four weeks aboard the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain in 2007. He said in a letter to GHHSA that he had “never before encountered a more talented, dedicated, and thoroughly wonderful group of people in all my life.”
Birdwell’s family has a long tradition of service in the US Navy and he has a personal lifelong interest in tall ships. He decided to try the “Two Weeks” program after learning that no sailing experience was necessary. After paying a fee to cover on-board expenses and signing a contract, volunteers join the crew and take part in many of the normal activities of sailing a tall ship, such as climbing the rigging, weighing anchor, and greeting guests at various ports. After his first stint aboard Lady Washington, Birdwell signed up for another two weeks on Hawaiian Chieftain.
The experience changed something abstract—an interest in family and maritime history—into something more concrete, Birdwell said. “It turned an intellectual exercise into actually being there,” he said. “It was a way for me to connect with my ancestors.”
Birdwell said he made the donation to ensure that other people get a chance to have a similar experience. “I look at this as investment in this organization,” he said. “The sort of work they do is important. It’s changing lives for the better.”
GHHSA Executive Director Capt. Les Bolton said he was overwhelmed by Birdwell’s donation. “He has seen first-hand the power of our ships to positively impact people’s lives,” Bolton said. The donation will be used to support GHHSA’s educational and volunteer programs.
More information about the Two Weeks Before the Mast program is available by calling 800-200-5239 or visiting the Volunteering page at www.historicalseaport.org. A Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain fact sheet is available on the Press Releases page at www.historicalseaport.org.
Celebrating 20 Years of Changing People’s Lives: 1989-2009 – The Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) public development authority based in Aberdeen, Wash. that owns and operates the tall ships Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington, launched March 7, 1989, now the Official Ship of the State of Washington. GHHSA’s mission is to provide educational, vocational, recreational and ambassadorial activities and experiences that promote and preserve the maritime history of Grays Harbor, the Pacific Northwest, and our nation while serving the needs of the community.