Neil Young’s sailboat lends hands to marine research

PORT TOWNSEND — A 90-year-old Danish schooner that is owned by a rock star, worked the waters of the North Sea and sailed the Pacific as a private cruiser is taking a new tack in life.

“We were looking for a way to keep the ship alive,” said Charlie Smith

“I’ve always wanted her to have purpose beyond just being a toy.”

Smith is captain of Ragland, a two-masted gaff-rigged schooner owned by rock musician Neil Young.

Moored at City Pier during the Wooden Boat Festival, the 101-foot ship — sans Young — came home from a 2½-year voyage to Hawaii and Alaska, where Smith and the crew worked with researchers to identify whale populations, monitor noise pollution and conduct other environmental studies.

“I’m back to where I was 25 years ago, when I was going to study whales,” Smith said.

“I’m getting the opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted to do.”

A science major in college, Smith first saw Ragland in 1980 when Young and his family dropped anchor at Point Hudson on the way home to California from a world cruise.

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The rest of the story appears in the Monday Peninsula Daily News.

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