TACOMA TALL SHIPS FESTIVAL
JULY 3 - 7,  2008

Mirador offered an intimate front row seat to the 2008 Tall Ships Festival held in Tacoma Washington on the 2008 July 4th weekend.   There were 39 schooners, barks, brigs, brigantines, gaff rigged schooners, and some other types that I could not identify.   There were also a 1921 steam powered Puget Sound Mosquito Boat, a 1942 Coast Guard Patrol boat, a US ARMY Tugboat and landing craft and thousands of spectator boats.

As you can see from the picture to the left  and the picture below - Mirador was moored adjacent to the smallest schooner (Sidney E Waite - a 58 footer), and just one slip away from the Lady Washington, a 90 ton  87 foot brig.  The Mallory Todd, a 68 schooner was moored across the finger pier from Mirador. 

All the boats were open for tours so there were thousands of people a day streaming by Mirador, or sometimes standing in line next to Mirador's stern just waiting for a chance to board the visiting ships.

The Tall Ships organizers reported that over 400,000 people attended the festival that ran from Friday morning July 4th thru Monday July 7th.   Dock Street Marina was one of three separate  areas for viewing and boarding the tall ships.  There were a total of 16 festival ships moored in the Dock Street Marina which was part of the Northwest Passage Village.  At the top of the marina ramp there was a large sound stage with music and performance from 10 AM to  11 PM Thursday through Monday.  \

LEFT CLICK on any of the pictures to see a full screen version

Here is a link to the Tacoma Tall Ships WEB site: http://www.tallshipstacoma.com/

The picture to the right shows the crowds standing on the dock waiting to board the Lady Washington.  The problem was that she was getting ready to go out for a three hour sail and few of the standees would be allowed to board her - AFTER paying $10 to stand in line for two hours.  There were a lot of annoyed people!!

The picture below is our VW in the original Dock Street Parking Lot which was sold to a developer in October '06 and we have not been allowed to use  UNTIL this festival. 

Parking is non-existent for Mirador's marina (Dock Street) under normal circumstances.  In May 2006 we moved Mirador into Dock Street and were assigned a parking space in the gravel lot about 75 yards from the Marina office.  In October 2006 the Thea Foss Waterway Authority, who owns the waterway, marina, and shoreside properties along the mile long Foss waterway, sold the Dock Street Marina parking lot to a developer who quickly graded the lot and made it better than when we first used it. The problem was/is that Tacoma allows parking along Dock Street and refused to mark the driveway to our gravel parking lot as a "NO PARKING" area.  On weekends and summer weekday afternoons visitors to the Foss Waterway/Museum of Glass area park all along Dock Street and block access to our parking lot.  There have been several occasions where we came back from a sail and could not get our car out of the lot.

There are only eight unrestricted parking spaces along Dock Street so the Marina tenants were told - "tough break - but you can buy parking in the garage under the Museum of Glass for $12.50 a day with NO in& out privileges."    The picture to the right shows the Museum of Glass on the right side and the disputed gravel parking lot about 75 yards straight ahead at the end of the sidewalk.  Mirador  is docked about 10 yards to the left of this picture.

The really annoying thing is that the developer graded the lot and put down good gravel and a nice ramp into the lot but then decided not to develop the property and is now trying to give it back the the Foss Waterway Authority.  But, up until the time of this festival we were not officially allowed to park in the lot

The Tall Ships organizers blocked all public vehicle access to Dock Street but did give me a pass to park in the gravel parking lot that used to be my assigned parking.  What's This??  - I can't park in the lot under normal circumstances but if there is a festival I can park in the lot that was originally part of the Dock Street Marina tenants package??

ENOUGH ALREADY!  I'm sure we are not the only new municipal 100 slip marina in the US with no parking available to the tenants??

Friday and Saturday were cloudy and breezy with steady winds in the teens and gusts to 25 knots.  It was quite impressive to see all the tall ships sail off the docks in our marina.  This picture is the Lady Washington just pulling away from her slip in 20 knots from the port aft quarter.  I was standing on Mirador's bow at the time.

The Captain had the crew hoist all the sails you see while still tied to the dock.  Once the dock lines were released it took the Lady about a minute to travel her own length away from the dock.  I guess 20 knots doesn't have  the same impact on a 90 ton square rigged boat as it does for Mirador's 12 tons.

The Lady Washington, Amazing Grace, Lynx, and Hawaiian Chieftain would all sail away at the same moment.  Each ship was on an end tie about 60 yards from the next so they could follow each other down the Foss waterway while under sail for a rendezvous and mock gun battle in Commencement Bay.  To the right is the Amazing Grace headed toward the 11th Street Bridge and Commencement Bay - about 3/4 mile away.  

Here is the Lady Washington chasing Amazing Grace down the Foss Waterway.  I was following in the Portebote while trying to take pictures, keep my required 50 yards distance (the Foss Waterway is only 40 yards wide), and trying not to get run over by the thousands of spectator boats and hundreds of security boats.  The gusty wind from astern was a problem for the Portebote because it would push me along at about twice the speed the ships were sailing.

Each Tall Ship was escorted by at least three and often five private boats who had volunteered to provide on the water security.  I am not sure what the were trying to secure against but it was carried to a ridiculous extreme.  I had to carry a special sign on Mirador that would allow me to enter my slipway, passing within feet of the Lady Washington's bowsprit, and to park in my usual slip. 

 On the first day, before the public was allowed onto the docks but after all the Tall Ships docked, I pulled Mirador out of her slip, turned her around in the slip way and backed her into the slip.  I was never more than 30 yards from my starting point.   An over zealous security boat tried to prevent me from backing into my slip - he was yelling at me because I was not displaying my sign.  I yelled back "Did you see me just pull out of the slip two minutes ago?" - The security boat yelled back "Yes we saw you leave your slip but you are not displaying your permit so you can't return to your slip!"  I shrugged my shoulders and ignored him, backed into the slip, tied up and waited to be arrested.  The volunteer glared at me for a while and then motored off.  

This is the Lynx, a replica of an early 1800s Baltimore revenue cutter, a privateer who was commissioned by the US government to harass and seize British ships.   She was the star of the Tall Ship Festival gun battles since she had the most and loudest cannon and usually sailed circles around the other boat. 

You can see Mirador's mast at the far left edge of the picture.

 

This picture was taken from the far north side of the waterway which I hope provides a perspective on the narrowness compared to the size of the ships under sail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the ships moored at Dock Street had to pass through and under the Murray Morgan (11th Street) Bridge on the way in and out of the waterway.  The bridge was built in 1913 and is notable for it's height above the water (about 75 feet at a 0 foot tide), it slopes about 10 feet from one end to the other, and it carries large heavy municipal water mains.

Mirador, with a 60 foot mast head (plus antenna) can get under the bridge in any tide under 15 feet but the Tall Ships seemed to have bigger sticks.  There is 139 feet of clearance at a 0 tide with the bridge all the way up.  The tides over the 4th of July weekend ran from a low of -2.5 feet at about 1:15 PM to a high of 13 feet at about 8:45 PM so the bigger ships had to be a little careful about the time of day and having enough clearance to return to the dock. The picture to the left is the Lynx sailing under the bridge with a minus 2 foot tide.  By 6 PM the tide had come up 13 feet so that bridge clearance was not so generous on the return trip.

 

The weather improved significantly Sunday and was perfect by Monday. 

The picture on the right is the 11th Street Bridge looking from the Commencement Bay side towards Dock Street and the Tacoma Dome.  The bridge is closed to vehicular traffic and during the festival was closed to any traffic since it remained in the up position for all five days ships were coming and going.  The bridge used to be the primary route from downtown Tacoma to the Port of Tacoma and to the residential area in NorthEast Tacoma and Brown's Point.  The state (which operated the bridge as State Route 509) gave the bridge to Tacoma, then declared the bridge unsafe in mid-2007, and has threatened to tear it down if Tacoma doesn't spend the $35 - $70 million (depending on who you ask) to repair the bridge.  There was some talk about leaving the bridge in the UP position and just treating it as some 1913 decorations for the Tacoma waterfront.  However, I rode my bicycle across it the other day so I guess it'll stay in use for a while - at least for pedestrians. 

The US Army operated a landing craft to carry passengers from the west entrance (Commencement Bay) to Foss Waterway all the way to my marina which is about a nautical mile. They beached the landing craft and let passengers board across the sand and ramp.  Here is a picture of the landing craft headed west in the waterway.

The tall modern building just above the landing craft is the corporate headquarters for the Frank Russell Company - the investment company that produces the Russell Indexes. 

The really big ships did not try to pass under the 11th Street Bridge so they tied up to the old/restored wharehouse docks at the west end of the Foss Waterway.  This is the stern of the USCG Eagle training ship.  She is 294 feet long, displaces 1800 tons, with 148 foot masts.  She can fly 20,000 square feet of canvas and carries a crew of 175 cadets and instructors plus a professional crew of 75 

There are two other ships in front of the Eagle, the Kansai and Bounty. 

Virginia V is the last of the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet and is still powered by her original steam engine which was cast in 1898 and assembled in 1904 for the US Army.  The Virginia V was built in 1922 and the engine was salvaged from the Virginia IV

Regular scheduled Mosquito Fleet services began in the 1830s and there were several competing companies by the 1860s. 

The Mosquito Fleet numbered in the hundreds and provided regular and fast commuter service connecting all the Puget Sound ports from Shelton and Olympia to Bellingham and Hoodsport on the Hoods Canal. During the height of the fleet service there were over 40 different regularly scheduled routes.  The 1913 schedule for the MV Tacoma sailing from downtown Tacoma to downtown Seattle was 77 minutes - a schedule the railroad can't meet today and few auto commuters can accomplish on a regular basis.  By the 1930s trolleys and automobiles had destroyed the economics of the Mosquito Fleet.

The sole remaining fleet operator in 1951 (Puget Sound Navigation Company - commonly known as the the Black Ball Line) sold all it's equipment and terminals to the State of Washington which eventually formed the Washington State Ferry System.  Today there are 10 routes and 28 vessels in the system which is the largest in the US. The system moved 24 million passengers and 11 million vehicles in 2004

Here's the Hawaiian Chieftain docking in a fashion that I am sure the original square rigger captains would have appreciated.  She is using her bow and stern thrusters to slide sideways into the dock.  Tough Life!

The Hawaiian Chieftain was originally built as a steel topsail ketch in 1988 for use as a cargo carrier between the Hawaiian Islands and some of the South Pacific Islands.  She has a five foot draft and three bilge keels so she can be beached for loading and unloading.   She was not a commercial success so the Port of Grays Harbor (Washington) purchased her for use as an education ship. She is 57' on the waterline and 103' overall with a displacement of 64 tons and can carry an additional 16 tons of cargo.  She is propelled by either 4,300 square feet of sail or two 235 horsepower diesel engines. 

To the right is the Lady Washington coming into the dock.  She does not have thrusters but having six line handlers on deck and three more on the dock make it pretty easy.  Or - it appeared that way from Mirador's cockpit.

I conducted four tours of Mirador for families that didn't get on the Lady Washington and had disappointed kids who really wanted to see a boat.

The festival ended with almost everyone in good spirits and no damage done to Mirador or the Marina.  Tacoma is already planning to have the Tall Ships festival return in 2011.