The MHN Blog is a companion to the Maritime Heritage Network, a not-for-profit, comprehensive website of maritime heritage organizations, attractions, and activities in the Pacific Northwest. The blog highlights news, activities, and resources useful to the entire maritime heritage community. All views expressed are the author's own. Opposing views are welcome.

Great gift ideas at the new MHN Gift Shop!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Saving Wawona, One Song at a Time

Seattle's vibrant maritime music community has been an anchor of support for the schooner Wawona, and it's produced a compact disc to prove it. Called "Save the Wawona: One Song at a Time," proceeds from the sale of the CD, available online at CD Baby, support restoration of the 1897 vessel. The disc has 18 songs from the maritime tradition produced by the Pacific Northwest's best sea musicians.

Sea music, a sub-genre of folk music, includes work songs known as "shanties," traditional ballads called "forebitters," and modern songs treating modern subjects, such as the difficulty of making a living on the sea. Some of the artists are world-renowned, such as duo William Pint & Felicia Dale, while others quietly keep the traditions alive in their home towns, such as Dan Roberts. Sea music has a strong sense of ribald humor: check out the songs "Hose Me Down," which describes the after effects of a blistering night out, and a live recording of "Pub With No Beer," about the tragedy of a bar empty of suds.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

MOHAI Acknowledges Desire to Move to Maritime Heritage Park

Seattle's Museum of History & Industry, arguably the most venerated historical institution in the region, will begin negotiations with city officials on a move to South Lake Union Park, moorage site of the area's large historic vessels. Though the heritage community knew for months that MOHAI was interested in the move, and I reported here that MOHAI had made an internal decision to seek the move, the announcement yesterday was the first public acknowledgement of the plans. The formal negotiations will likely begin sometime next month, pending approval of a city council resolution giving Mayor Greg Nickels permission to pursue the negotiations. More details are available at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website.

A MOHAI move to SLUP could have enormous impact on maritime heritage in Seattle. It is currently working with Northwest Seaport on a plan to save the schooner Wawona as an on-land display at the park. It is also a member of the Maritime Heritage Alliance, a steering group created as a result of the 2005 Maritime Heritage Task Force. MHA is charged with carrying forward the recommendations of the Task Force, including a solution to the lack of a major maritime history facility in the city and county.

What are your thoughts on the MOHAI move? Is it good for maritime heritage? Any pitfalls? (Note: I published the anonymous comment because it was thoughtful and threw more light on the conversation.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

And Now for Something Completely Kitschy

Scouring the web for items related to maritime history sometimes turns up some mildly bizarre and kitchy stuff. Here's a couple of examples:
  • A maritime history enthusiast built an 88-foot model of the doomed cruise liner Titanic in the back yard of his Scotland home. The BBC reports that the model took six years to build.
  • The Maritime Hotel, constructed for New York's National Maritime Museum in 1966, has become the hottest hipster hangout in the Big Apple, apparently because all the windows resemble portholes, and all the rooms face west toward the Hudson River and New Jersey.
Send me your maritime history news of the wierd via the comments feature or via e-mail and I'll post it here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tribal Chief Dies in Traditional Canoe Event

A First Nations chief from British Columbia died Wednesday when his canoe overturned during an annual journey celebrating Northwest native people's maritime culture. Chief Jerry Jack of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nations of Gold River, B.C., fell from a Makah tribe canoe during the event, which was under way near Sequim, Wash. Another man and two women from the canoe were taken to a local hospital. More details are available at the Peninsula Daily Times website.

MHN Calendar: Pint & Dale, Ballard Seafoodfest

Here's selected special events from the Maritime Heritage Network Calendar for July 29-30, 2006.
  • 7/29/2006: Concert, William Pint & Felicia Dale, Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Ctr, 8:00 PM to 10:30 PM, Price: $10 General; $8 students, seniors, and maritime heritage organization members, Center for Wooden Boats, 1002 Valley St., Seattle, 206-447-9800,, The Northwest's premier sea music duo in a summer evening concert
  • July 29-30, 2006: Festival, Ballard Seafoodfest, Ballard Seafoodfest, Price: FREE, Ballard neighborhood, Seattle, 206-784-9705,, Annual festival of seafood in Seattle's home to the North Pacific fishing fleet
MHN is always looking for more events for listing in its Calendar page. If you know of a maritime-related event in the Pacific Northwest, please send details to

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Metroblogger Comments on Wawona

Samantha Mastridge at Metroblogging Seattle has some comments on the potential land display of Wawona. Hmm. Wawona at Seattle Center?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Historic District Proposed for Waterfront

Seattle mayor Greg Nickels will propose on Wednesday a new historic district for the city's Central Waterfront as part of an overhaul of the entire waterfront experience. The proposed city landmark district, which covers the historic wooden piers 54 to 59, is part of a vision for the waterfront in the years after the Alaskan Way Viaduct, damaged in a 2001 earthquake, is replaced.

The piers are remnants of the century-long role the old industrial waterfront played in the shaping of the city. After World War II, most cargo handling moved to areas north and south of the central waterfront, which is next to the city's downtown business and residential districts. The piers and pier sheds, once warehouses for the movement of goods from all over the United States, are now retail shops, tourist activities, and home to the Seattle Aquarium. For more details about the Central Waterfront plan, see the city's Department of Planning and Development website.

I'd welcome any comments you might have. Is the district a good idea? Should the district includes heritage education activities, such as a museum?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Photo of Historic Ships Wharf in Seattle

Seattle photographer Dean Forbes has published a shot of all five historic vessels moored at the Historic Ships Wharf at South Lake Union Park. The vessels are left to right, steamer Virginia V, lightship Swiftsure, salmon troller Twilight, fireboat Duwamish, and tug Arthur Foss. (The V5 and Arthur are semi-hidden to the extreme left and right. Also, thanks to Paul for comments regarding copyright.) Photos are said to be worth a thousand words, but the image hides the uncertain fate of these vessels. Some or all of them may have to leave SLUP at some point if the controversy over the use of the wharf doesn't settle down.

If you have photos you'd like to share of historic Puget Sound or western Washington State vessels, let me know.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Seattle Fulbright Scholar Checks In From Sweden

I received a thrilling e-mail yesterday from Nathaniel Howe, a UW museum studies student on a Fulbright Scholarship to Stockholm University. (The photo shows him pointing to a trail marker on a local hiking trail.) Nathaniel attended the Wawona Summit last year and one of my lectures on the schooner Wawona, and he wrote to say that he's looking forward to return to Seattle to resume his "not-so-quite passion" for the ship. Nathaniel has lived on an icebreaker, and he works at the Vasa Museum, described on its website as "Scandinavia's most visited museum," located in Stockholm. It's home to the 17th century royal Swedish warship, Vasa.

Nathaniel's recent research has taken him to 11 maritime museums in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, and he's excited about the "fantastic ideas" they offer. "In building a maritime heritage center in Seattle, we shall not be marching into the unknown many people believe," he writes. "There are plenty of good and bad examples to learn from over here to guide us from folly."

Nathaniel keeps his own blog of his experiences in Sweden called Magellan i Sverge, translated as "Magellan in Sweden;" "Magellan" is his nickname. We hope his voyages bring him home safe and sound and that he makes a mark in his home port. ( Criminy, did I just write that? ;P )

If you'd like to write to him, visit his blog or write to me at and I'll pass along the note.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

MHN Calendar: Steamboat Meet; Little, But Oh My!

Here's selected special events from the Maritime Heritage Network Calendar for July 21-23, 2006.
  • 7/22/2006: Meeting, Lake Whatcom Three Landings Steamboat Meet, Northwest Steam Society, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Price: Contact NWSS, Lake Whatcom, Washington, Lake Whatcom, 360-647-5112,, Historic steamcraft meet on Lake Whatcom.
  • 7/22/2006: Presentation, Little, But Oh My!, Jill Johnson, Storyteller, 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, Price: FREE, Deception Pass State Park, North end of Whidbey Island, Wash., 360-341-2063,, Storyteller Jill Johnson tells about the life of Berte Olson, the first female ferry boat captain on Puget Sound.

MHN is always looking for more events for listing in its Calendar page. If you know of a maritime-related event in the Pacific Northwest, please send details to

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

NWS/MOHAI Meets With City on Wawona

Northwest Seaport president Joe Shickich tells me that the scheduled meeting yesterday with city Parks Superintendent Ken Bounds and Deputy Mayor Tim Cies "was short but went well." The parties talked about the future of the schooner Wawona, specifically whether she could be displayed on land at South Lake Union Park. Shickich says TriCoastal Marine, a marine consulting firm, is interested in helping with the project. The Museum of History & Industry is investigating other land displays of vessels around the country. The Parks Department is also looking into local maritime companies that could offer services and the costs a display might incur. In the past, Parks has said it wants Wawona removed from its traditional berth at SLUP, and the city threatened last month to break up the vessel if it is not moved by Sept. 30.

Another Podcast with a Maritime Theme, a website for independently owned hotels, produced a podcast that focuses on Amsterdam, highlighting the ancient European city's maritime history and attractions. This podcast is very informative, without being promotional. Compare it to the podcast I mentioned on Michigan Lighthouses, which was hosted by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. The latter is more promotional than informative, but it's not designed as a travelogue.

Have you ever produced a travel or tourism-related podcast? Leave your web address or link to the podcast via a comment!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Storyteller Brings Female Ferry Captain to Life

Anyone who rides a Washington State Ferry should take in a show by Whidbey Island storyteller Jill Johnson (pictured left), who portrays Berte Olson, the state's first female ferry boat captain in a one-woman show. Between 1920 and 1950, Olson ran two different ferryboat companies in Puget Sound. But Berte was also the oldest daughter of a large pioneer family, a wife, and a mother. Johnson has performed and given storytelling workshops in Washington, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and overseas. She was a National Storytelling Competition finalist. Her next performance of her one-woman show, "Little, But Oh My!", is Saturday, July 22 at Deception Pass State Park. Check the Maritime Heritage Network Calendar for details.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Welcome to M/V Lotus and Lotus Heritage Foundation

Maritime Heritage Network welcomed a new attraction and organization member yesterday from Port Townsend. The vessel is the M/V Lotus (pictured left), a houseboat cruiser built in 1909 for Maurice McMicken of Olympia, an attorney who was legal counsel for the Washington State legislature. The 102-ton vessel is 92 feet long with a beam of 18 feet and a draft of 5.5 feet. The interior and the main cabin features beautifully maintained woodwork. The personal writing desk holds original china and crystal with the Lotus insignia. The vessel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cruiser is cared for by the M/V Lotus Heritage Foundation, whose volunteer staff are working on several educational projects that explore the natural and cultural history of the Pacific Northwest.

Friday, July 14, 2006

MHN Calendar: Tugboat Annie, Fiberglassics Cruise

Here's selected special events from the Maritime Heritage Network Calendar for July 14-16, 2006.
  • 7/15/2006: Film, Captain Tugboat Annie, Media Bay Productions, 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM, Price: FREE, South Lake Union Park, Seattle, 206-281-4928,, Sidewalk Cinema, a part of Media Bay Productions, presents the Seattle Maritime Film Festival. This presentation features the 1945 film Captain Tugboat Annie, along with several maritime shorts. (Co-sponsored by Maritime Heritage Network.)
  • July 14-16, 2006: Cruise, Lake Crescent Weekend, FiberGlassics Northwest, Price: Contact FGNW, Lake Crescent, Port Angeles, 360-385-5038,, FGNW members spend the weekend at Lake Crescent, west of Port Angeles.
  • July 13-17, 2006: Festival, Ten Miles Lakes Mini-Meet, Northwest Steam Society, Price: Contact NWSS, Lakeside, Oregon, Ten Miles Lakes, 541-826-2724,, Historic steam craft meet at Ten Miles Lakes.
MHN is always looking for more events for listing in its Calendar page. If you know of a maritime-related event in the Pacific Northwest, please send details to

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Nickels Backs Off Slightly on Wawona; Dozens Turn Out for Committee Meeting

Mayor Greg Nickels appeared to back away slightly today from a threat to "demolish and dispose" of the historic schooner Wawona, though a spokeswoman for his office said the Parks Department has "serious reservations" about a proposal to display the vessel whole on land at South Lake Union Park. The statements were made before Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck's Urban Development & Planning Committee. (Video is available here.)

Mayoral spokeswoman Emily East, making her first appearance before a council committee, said she knew few details about the Wawona issue. But she said the mayor had not "formally" changed his position in a letter last month that said he was considering demolition and disposal of the city and national landmark, if the ship was not moved from SLUP by September 30. However, she noted that the mayor's office is in ongoing discussions with Wawona's owner, Northwest Seaport, and its partner, the Museum of History & Industry, on options for the ship, implying the talks could lead to a settlement that excluded destruction of the ship.

During the meeting, Steinbrueck cited city historic preservation ordinances which require the entire vessel be preserved, not pieces. Parks Superintendent Ken Bounds has suggested pieces of Wawona be preserved at SLUP, not the whole artifact. East said the Parks Department believes the entire ship may be too big for SLUP.

Representatives of NWS and MOHAI met yesterday with Bounds and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis to discuss a proposal for turning Wawona into a land-based display. A person familiar with the meeting said it was "positive" and that "small steps forward" were made. The parties are scheduled to meet again on Monday.

More than two dozen supporters of Seattle's maritime heritage attended Steinbrueck's committee meeting, which included coucilmembers Richard Conlin and Tom Rasmussen. Rasmussen said he preferred a water-based display, rather than land-based. During the public comment period, several long-time volunteers spoke in support of Wawona's preservation. The speakers included historic preservation activist Kay Bullitt, who helped purchase the ship for Seattle in 1964. Karen Gordon, the city's historic preservation program manager, also detailed the ship's significance and the ordinances that protect her.

Comments on the meeting, whether or not you attended, are welcome.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Roots and Routes Website

Here's a website with a different twist on the heritage travel theme. The "Roots and Routes" site,, is a not-for-profit site begun in 1996 with a grant from Connecticut government agency. First focused on Connecticut, the site has gradually expanded to include all the United States. The site owners want to "use the cultural connections, great migrations, settlements and symbolic landscapes of North America" to make the avocations of geneaology and heritage travel more meaningful. The site includes some information about maritime history, including an article about a lighthouse in Ohio.

What's your favorite heritage travel website? Comment below.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Podcast on MI Lighthouses; NY Tugboat Threatened

The state of Michigan is ahead of just about everybody in promoting its maritime heritage. And they've got help in Congress. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow has published a podcast in which she sings the praises of the state's Lake Michigan lighthouses. Podcasts are relatively easy to produce (I was once an audio producer, so I know) and the Internet makes distribution brain-dead easy and cheap. Every heritage organization should look into this option.

Wawona's troubles are far worse than this Cape Cod tugboat, but I thought it offered an interesting twist to the tale of losing our maritime history. The story is from the New York Times, and you may need to register to view it. BTW, check out Seattle's own historic tugboat, the Arthur Foss.

Are you podcasting heritage content? If so, let me know about it by commenting below.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

P-I Story on Wawona; How Will City Respond?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a story today on NWS/MOHAI's letter to the city Friday on moving the Wawona from South Lake Union Park. The story is missing several pieces, especially the plan for putting Wawona on a barge and moving it temporarily from SLUP before it returns to be displayed on land. I've heard this discussed in meetings with MOHAI and personal discussions with NWS. A couple of nit picks: Wawona has three masts, not four; she's been a museum ship since 1964, not 1947.

The question now is the city's response. I've heard credible estimates of moving Wawona ranging from $300,000 to $500,000, and that doesn't include moorage fees at its new home that could cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. And no one has proposed a temporary moorage spot; we don't want another Kalakala on our hands. However, the plan is doable; it's up to the city to step forward and help out. What will Ken Bounds and Tim Ceis do? Wawona supporters have moved toward them, now they must come our way. Or will they fold their arms and reject NWS/MOHAI's good faith effort? We'll know if a few days.

Please register your thoughts below. What should happen next?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Wawona Plan Delivered; Positive Response Needed

I received an exciting call this afternoon from Joe Shickich, president of Northwest Seaport, who said that his organization and the Museum of History and Industry had delivered a letter to the mayor's office with a plan for moving Wawona from South Lake Union Park temporarily for restoration. The city had set a deadline of today for the plan, which is a response to the mayor's threat last month to "demolish and dispose" of the vessel in September. Wawona is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated city landmark. The NWS/MOHAI plan calls for temporary removal of Wawona from SLUP by barge to a location where restoration can continue. Ultimately, the entire vessel would be displayed on land at SLUP. The Parks Department and the mayor's office has suggested that Wawona be destroyed, with a few pieces saved for a limited display.

The entire maritime heritage community supports the interpretation of Wawona as a historic artifact. This plan moves us toward that goal. Now is the time for the mayor's office to show good faith and demonstrate that instead of standing in the way of a credible maritime history facility, as it has so far, it wants to partner with NWS, MOHAI, and all other maritime heritage organizations to create a world-class maritime heritage display at SLUP with Wawona as its centerpiece. Everyone wants a positive, constructive response from the city that moves the process forward without delay and new conditions.

If you would like to comment on the Wawona plan or add your voice to the discussion, please click the comment link below.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Story on Small Ships Tacoma 2006

The Tacoma News Tribune ran a story about the Small Ships Tacoma event last weekend. The first-time event was organized by the Tacoma Tall Ships Society at the Thea Foss Waterway. The event showcased small wooden vessels built before 1950. To find more upcoming events, check out the list on the Maritime Heritage Network Calendar.

Did you attend? Tell me what you liked best!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Public Hearing on Proposed Wawona Demolition Scheduled

I've received word that Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck has scheduled a public hearing on Wawona Wednesday, July 12 at 2 p.m. at City Hall. As chair of the council's Urban Development and Planning Committee, Steinbrueck is a staunch supporter of historic preservation and our irreplaceable maritime heritage. He served as chair of the recent Maritime Heritage Task Force, which made several recommendations on the preservation of the entire region's maritime heritage, not just Wawona. I spoke with him just days after the publication of the "demolish and dispose" letter from Mayor Nickels' office, and he was very upset at the mayor's tactics. I'm told the July 12 event won't be a formal hearing, but rather an update on the Wawona situation during his regular committee meeting.

Every supporter of Wawona, maritime heritage, and historic preservation should come to the hearing. You may have an opportunity to speak, but even if you don't, your presence will demonstrate the importance of this issue to the community. Wear a heritage-oriented t-shirt, carry a sign, or just be there! The address for city hall is 600 4th Avenue. The hearing will be in the council chambers.

If you can't attend, please contact Steinbrueck's office and share your views. You can call him at 206-684-8804, or e-mail him at Snail mail is the most powerful tool: The address is Seattle City Hall, PO Box 34025, Seattle, WA, 98124-4025.

Any thoughts on what the hearing should focus on? Do you think the hearing is a bad idea? Please comment below.