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Schooners set sail for rendezvous in Tacoma

Ahoy, nautical novices, experts and everyone in between.

Tacoma Waterfront Association (TWA) and the Pacific Northwest Schooner Association (PNSA) Windjammer Fleet will host Schooner Rendezvous on April 24 and 25. The event will bring more than 15 schooners to Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway.

Visitors will have the opportunity to tour ships, go sailing, visit vendor booths and enjoy food and entertainment. Schooner skippers will give presentations about the history of the ships, inside Foss Waterway Seaport maritime museum on Dock Street. Volunteers include Sea Scouts, as well as Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps students from Stadium High School and Curtis High School.

Point Ruston LLC is hosting a kickoff fundraising event for TWA on April 24. Participants will be treated to a reception aboard one of the schooners. Tickets cost $75 per couple and $50 per person.

Organizers say they hope this event will provide sailing fans an opportunity to visit the fleet at the start of the sailing season.

“It’s basically a chance to come ‘kick the tires’ and check out the wide variety of ships that make up our Pacific fleet,” said Captain John Holbert of the participating schooner Merrie Ellen. He said many people in the region do not realize these boats are available locally.

“We want to raise awareness about the schooners that are here in our area.”

This year, organizers managed to attract schooners ranging in size from 47 to 160 feet on deck. Holbert’s Merrie Ellen was built in 1922 in Vancouver, B.C. to be a fishing schooner, but was converted to a steam driven tugboat. It was converted back to its original sailing rig in 1978.

Another schooner, Zodiac, was built in 1924 as a private luxury yacht for the Johnson and Johnson heirs. This schooner will be partnering with Tacoma Metro Parks to host a Youth on Board sail for local teens.

“Youth sail training is such an important part of what we do, we are always happy to help train the next generation of sailors,” said Chris Wallace, spokesperson for PNSA and crewmember of Zodiac.

All the schooners will be available for public tours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Tickets to tour the ships are $5 per adult (children 12 and younger free) and parking is $5 per vehicle. Some schooners will sell tickets for day sails (prices vary). A souvenir program with photos and facts about the ships will be provided to every group purchasing tickets.

TWA President Stan Selden said the organization is excited to help host Schooner Rendezvous this year, because the members see value in the program.

“We found out local people were going back east to Maine for schooner rides, when they had them right here in their own backyard,” Selden said. Organizers have tried to make the event very inclusive, incorporating participants from Browns Point to Point Defiance, Selden added. He also anticipates ships from Canada will eventually participate in the event.

“This event will continue to help put Tacoma’s waterfront on the map.”

This article originally found in the

Tacoma Weekly.

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