The Grays Harbor Historical Seaport plans to sell the Hawaiian Chieftain and refocus their financial efforts on the Lady Washington and the Historical Seaport property in South Aberdeen. Executive Director Brandi Bednarik said, “Hawaiian Chieftain has been an important part of our operations for nearly three decades, so this was a difficult decision to make.” A press release from the seaport this week explained that recent inspections and required maintenance have kept the vessel at port, and away from the harbor. Bednarik added, “When the weather allows, we intend to bring her back to Aberdeen where she can be hauled out until a new owner is found.”
The Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority added in the release, “We enter 2020 with an updated strategic plan that focuses on three goals”
Increase public awareness
Make Seaport Landing a community and tourist destination
Maintain the fleet to allow sailing for years to come
In order to ensure the success of this mission, we find it necessary to home in [sic] on our key assets — Lady Washington and Seaport Landing. Lady Washington is currently at the Seaport for her first extended winter maintenance period in at least 12 years. Your contributions have allowed for an extensive overhaul and servicing of her rigging and systems in preparation for a busy 2020.
Back at home, your support is helping us develop Seaport Landing into a destination that will change our community. As we revitalize and repurpose the site, we continue to focus on creating a vibrant and inviting center for tourism and education. The concept we continue to work toward includes:
• A maritime museum and exhibits
• A trade school in partnership with Harbor High (Aberdeen School District) and Grays Harbor College
• Adult education and classroom space for The Seafarer Collective, our maritime workforce development training program
• An event center to host community events
• Leasing space to other businesses (Current leases include Standard Truss, Industrial Assets, Washington Motorcycle Safety Training, and most recently a local artist.)
• Shops and restaurants
• Floating pier and public waterfront access
• Longboat restoration and programming
As we refocus on Washington’s Official Flagship and her homeport of Aberdeen, we have come to the difficult decision that Hawaiian Chieftain’s role within GHHS is coming to an end. Last June, US Coast Guard inspectors discovered serious problems with the steel in her more than fifteen percent of her hull and her bowsprit. She is forbidden from operating until these issues are resolved. She was shifted from Port Townsend to Astoria in the hopes of less expensive repairs in partnership with Tongue Point, but the cost of the repairs in either location is more than the current value of the ship.
There were other factors that contributed to the decision, including the loan that we currently carry on Hawaiian Chieftain, the amount of money we have already invested into repairs these last several years, and her profit and loss compared to other areas of the Seaport. After reviewing all of our options, financially this made the most sense.
We have been asked the question – why not sell Seaport Landing or part of the property? Part of the answer is that we took on the environmental responsibility for the cleanup when we acquired the property. As a public agency, Department of Ecology has been funding the cleanup at 90%. We put up a $1,000,000 bond at the time of purchase. Because we did not have the cash to put up this bond, we used our assets, including our old property. Even if we sell part of the property or our old property (which we are in a lease to own), that money will have to be used for the cleanup, it can’t be used for Hawaiian Chieftain. In addition to that, part of the grant money we have accepted for the development requires us to keep the property for 10 years.
Hawaiian Chieftain has been an important part of our operations for nearly three decades, so this was a difficult decision to make. When the weather allows, we intend to bring her back to Aberdeen where she can be hauled out until a new owner is found.
If the funding for the repairs is found, we will reconsider our options at that time.
We are happy to answer any questions that you may have. Thank you again for all of your support! We look forward to seeing you in 2020.