GRAYS HARBOR — The Hawaiian Chieftain has been sold and eventually will return to its home state of Hawaii after undergoing repairs in Port Townsend.
“It is the bittersweet end of an era,” said Brandi Bednarik, executive director of the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, which had owned the Hawaiian Chieftain since 2005.
“We are excited to have found Chieftain the perfect home with Aubrey and Matt Wilson,” Bednarik said in a press release Thursday.
Seaport officials made the decision in putting up for sale the historic replica, which has served as a companion ship to the Lady Washington, Bednarik said. Now they will focus their efforts on the Lady Washington and the Seaport Landing waterfront development.
“We were spread too thin to take on two boat restoration projects and the Seaport Landing development,” Bednarik said.
“After a year of planning and working with our donors, it was determined that this was the most logical step for us, though a heartbreaking one. Many of us — especially our past crew — put thousands of hours of love and care into Chieftain, or Chiefy, as she was affectionately nicknamed.
“To help ensure the Lady Washington could continue sailing and advance the Seaport Landing development, we had to acknowledge it was time to let Chieftain go somewhere where she could receive the love and attention she deserves.”
The new owners plan a complete restoration and COI reinstatement. The Hawaiian Chieftain is being towed from Astoria, Ore., to Port Townsend to begin repairs, the seaport said in the release.
The Chieftain and the Lady Washington have often visited ports on the North Olympic Peninsula.
The Wilsons are posting updates on sailhawaiian chieftain.com.
In a blog post dated Wednesday, Matt Wilson said: “The first order of business is to ensure our restoration roadmap is accurate. To that end, the Hawaiian Chieftain is making her way up to the Port of Port Townsend where a new out of water survey will be conducted and compared to the original survey from 2019. Any new items will be added to the project list, and from there we will finalize the project plan.”
Repairs are expected to be finished in six months to a year.
After a farewell party at Seaport Landing, the Wilsons plan to sail the Chieftain to Hawaii, where she will once again take on passengers for day sails, be available for tours and events, and offer educational programs and sail training opportunities.
The seaport said that while Aubrey is very familiar with sailing traditionally rigged tall ships, having worked as a deckhand on Niagara, Tole Mour and Roseway, “Matt is … less familiar. He has sailed on a tall ship exactly once — on Hawaiian Chieftain with Aubrey in 2013 — but apparently it made an impression,” the release said.
It was important to the board, staff and crew for the Chieftain “to end up in a good home with someone who would take the best care of her,” the release said. “We are confident that we found her such a home.”
Said Wilson on their website: “We understand many people are emotionally invested in the Chieftain’s future, and a change like this can be hard, but we hope everyone will be as excited as we are about her future prospects.”