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Hawaiian Chieftain Makeover

by Norris Comer

The Gray’s Harbor Historical Seaport is kicking off Phase 1 of a complete overhaul of the iconic tall ship Hawaiian Chieftain this July titled “Project Overhaul”. The plan is a three-year, three-phase project to restore the Hawaiian Chieftain to top-notch, turnkey condition in order to continue her mission as an educational tall ship. Her propellers and shafts need replacing, the steel hull needs sandblasting, the engine room requires safety upgrades, and much more. To boaters, the to-do list will look familiar, albeit of an epic scale. According to a recent press release from Brandi Bednarik, Executive Director of the Seaport, “Her sails are so thin they don’t hold patches. To be frank, these fixes can’t wait.”

Hawaiian Chieftain // Photo by Don McCullough

The Hawaiian Chieftain, underway before upgrades were needed. (Photo by Don McCullough).


The Hawaiian Chieftain joined the Seaport in 2005 and touts an impressive record for its mission as an educational tall ship. The Seaport accredits the Hawaiian Chieftain as the sole reason why 35,000 visitors to the Seaport a year discover tall ships and sailing. What’s more, the charismatic ship has doubled the number of participants, whether they are kids aboard for adventure learning or adults developing job skills. The ship also travels up and down the West Coast and serves a purported annual audience of over 70,000 in California, Oregon, and Washington.

“Can you breathe new life into her?” Bednarik challenges in the Seaport’s call for help. Will you respond? The urgent upgrades require an additional $43,500 for Phase 1 of Project Overhaul, which includes replacing her shafts and propellers, rebuilding the anchor windlass, painting, and rigging work. For more details and to donate, visit historicalseaport.org.

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