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!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sand Point Berth for Wawona Off the Table?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the city of Seattle has received only one proposal for the use of Building 27 at the Sand Point Historic District, and the proposal is not from Northwest Seaport, the owner of the schooner Wawona. The building is a large hanger at the old Sand Point Naval Air Station, and it's been mentioned over the past few years as a potential location for restoration work on the historic vessel. The P-I reports that the city has received a proposal from a Redmond company called Arena Sports for use of the building. In the story, the P-I quotes NWS president Joe Shickich, who spoke only of plans with the Museum of History & Industry to create a land display for the schooner at South Lake Union Park.

The lack of a proposal suggests that MOHAI and NWS aren't considering Building 27 as a temporary restoration facility as they make preparations for the land display. Most people believe the preferred option is the Metro Dock at North Lake Union (though many Wawona supporters want the restoration to take place a SLUP, which has been vetoed by the city parks department). The county is in negotiations with several entities to turn the dock into an historic ship restoration facility, and it could become the temporary berth for Wawona.

What do you think? Should Sand Point be in the mix? Or should NWS focus on the Metro Dock?


Anonymous Nathaniel Howe said...

To help fill in the picture on the Sand Point issue;

Several months ago NWS representatives told me the plan to move the Wawona to Sand Point for restoration in Hangar 27 had been more or less abandoned.
The central reasons were that a.) such a plan was simply unfeasible at present and b.) it no longer facilitated the overall plan for Wawona's future.

a.) The unfeasibility of the plan.
The first significant barrier was that during meetings between the Parks Department and NWS last spring, the city flatly rejected the idea of putting Wawona in Hangar 27 at Sand Point.
Honestly, the city really can't be blamed for its decision; NWS had no detailed plan or anything close to sufficient funding to move the 165ft schooner ashore and into the hangar, much less the resources for the actual restoration. Just moving her in there was projected to cost at least $1.25 million.

Moreover, once work begins in the hangar, it would be nearly impossible to move Wawona out again until total and thorough restoration had been completed. One of the first steps in the actual restoration effort would be to remove all the planking--good and bad--and let the ship settle, thereby straightening out the keel again and removing the dangerous 18"+ hog it has now.

If funding shortages were to halt restoration at that point--when the ship had been reduced to a keel and frames--, the ship would have virtually no structual integrity. Therefore, moving the ship out of the hangar in one piece would be completely out of the question. In such a case, the only options would be to continue and carry out a full restoration, restoring her original strength and thus the option of rolling her out on house-movers again, or the more likely outcome, cutting up the ship and hauling her away by dumptruck.

The city strongly wishes to avoid the risk of allowing NWS to carry out the work there without a financial and organizational guarantee that they can finish the work and remove the ship. The city's fear is that the project might collapse, saddling the city with the burden of either a uselss hangar space with an abandoned wreck inside, having to pay for demolition and removal of the vessel, or lastly, the enormous cost of completing the restoration effort. So, quite frankly, the city was right to reject the idea of moving Wawona into a Sand Point hangar at this point, and as a result, NWS had dropped the plan and thus did not submit a proposal.

b.) Wawona's course
Another, equally key, reason the Sand Point option was abandoned by NWS was that last December's Wawona Summit advised that a different long-range plan be employed in preserving Wawona. The recommendation was that Wawona be hauled out and displayed on land if possible.

Displayed ashore, the sort of full restoration her sistership, C.A. Thayer (the inspiration behind the Sand Point Plan, even including the disused airplane hangar idea) is undergoing now, is simply not necessary or even desireable; onshore display offers the opportunity to retain much more original timber, a benefit that should not be passed over.

What all this meant for the Sand Point Plan was that moving the ship into a hangar is not the appropriate action. Such a measure is only necessary to carry out a complete restoration to sailing condition, not the plan for partial restoration for on-land display now embraced by NWS and many supporters of Wawona.

The Wawona Summit's decision is based on the fact that the ship could not remain in the water much longer. The severe hog in her keel among other frailties of age common to wooden vessels simply dictated that a partial restoration would ultimately fail to keep the vessel afloat.
As the funding for a full restoration is not available and The C.A. Thayer is destined to be the world's example of a sailable Pacific lumber schooner, the Wawona Summit concluded that another form of display must be found for Wawona, one that will make her unique and competitive in the fundraising market. Nobody will pay for Seattle to have exactly the same thing as San Francisco.

In short, in view of the funding considerations and the ship's own structural predicament, the Wawona Summit concluded that she would have to be moved ashore.

Although it strikes many as almost unethical to pull the ship out of its natural environment, the fact is that the original hull will not survive in the water no matter how much money is put into her. Historic wooden ships are being moved ashore all over the world--the Fram, the Jylland, the Cutty Sark, and countless others. Those that are afloat like the HMS Victory and the USS Constitution have undergone complete reconstructions. Less than 10% of the USS Constitution is original material--and virtually none of it is structural.
Even steel ships are now being permanently dry-berthed in order to ensure their survival. Currently plans are in motion to move the battleship USS Texas ashore while others like the USS Olympia, desperately need to be hauled out before they corrode through and sink.
Dry-berthing does not only sharply slow decay and cut maintenance costs, but with weakening keels, it is often the only chance for survival--and that is Wawona's case.

So, in conclusion, NWS did not place an application to use Hangar 27 at Sand Point because it was unfeasible to attempt a full restoration at this juncture and because such a project is not the future the experts at the Wawona Summit deemed best for her.

2:59 AM


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home