Arts and Entertainment

Ahoy, mateys: The tall ships are back

The Hawaiian Chieftain under sail.  - Photo by Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority
The Hawaiian Chieftain under sail.
— image credit: Photo by Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority

Islanders beware: A raging naval battle with roaring cannon fire will take place on Penn Cove next week between two incredible ships.

Well, all right, the cannons will be firing blanks and kids will be part of the action, but it’ll still be intense...

The Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain tall ships will be in Coupeville from Aug. 11 to 15 offering free walk-on tours and three different public events: battle sails, adventure sails and evening sails.

Jeremiah Gempler has been the captain of the Lady Washington since last October and is looking forward to exploring Whidbey waters.

“Penn Cove is a fantastic place to sail at night or any time really,” he said. “It’s a good family experience.”

Gempler said his favorite events are the battle sails, which are designed to resemble 18th century naval skirmishes.

“It’s a competition between both boats. We try to out maneuver each other and try to get the better shot on the vessel,” the captain said. “Even if it’s not windy, it’s a high energy environment. It’s pretty exciting.”

The famous Lady Washington is a replica of one of the first U.S.-flagged ships to visit North America in the 1700s. Its sailing partner and faux rival, the Hawaiian Chieftain, is a replica of a 19th Century trading ship. During the school year, the ships are used for educational programs for kindergarten through twelfth graders.

The ships will be tied at City Dock, Front Street Northwest and Northwest Alexander Street.

Walk-on tours are Aug. 11, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Aug. 12-13, noon to 5 p.m., Aug. 14-15, 10 a.m. to1 p.m. The crew will be one site in period costumes, and the onboard gift shop will be open. Donations of $3 suggested.

Select your sail:

Wednesday, Aug. 11: The Hawaiian Chieftain offers a two-hour evening sail at 7:30 p.m. for $25.

Friday, Aug. 13: The Lady Washington offers a three-hour sailing experience at 6 p.m. for $35.

Saturday, Aug. 14 and Sunday, Aug. 15: Battle Sails at 2 p.m. - a three-hour experience with cannon fire, close-quarter maneuvers and passenger participation. Tickets: $60 adults, $50 students/seniors/active military, $40 children under 12 and under.

Sunday, Aug. 15: Three-hour Adventure Sail on the Lady Washington at 10 a.m. Sail includes demonstrations of tall ship handling, maritime storytelling and passenger participation. Tickets: $55 adults, $45 students/ seniors/active military, $35 children 12 and under.

Tickets can be purchased at

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