Brandi Bednarik,
Executive Director

“We have had to stitch some places in the sails where we have accidentally put our fingers through.”

Captain Cassie Sleeper

Lady Washington

“The sails are rough, especially our upper topsail. We basically can’t set it as every time we touch it a new rip appears.”

Captain Brendan Reed

Hawaiian Chieftain

Friends, in the coming weeks you will be seeing a lot about Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain’s need for sails.

I want to give you the most up-to-date information. This post will cover where the current sails stand, and how soon they could stop the tall ships from sailing.

History of the Current Sails

A full set of sails on a tall ship is referred to as a “suit of sails.” Both Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain had new suits of sails in 2007-08, when the GHHS community got together to purchase them. The sails were made of Oceanus, a recycled polyester sail cloth by North Cloth, that was developed for the HMS Rose and USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides” the oldest naval vessel still afloat).

The current sails were made by NW Sails and Canvas and Force 10 Sailmaking and Rigging, together with Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain sailors who served as apprentices on the project. All sails were replaced at once, leading to today, when they are all nearing retirement at the same time.

The current sails have served the vessels well through over 3,581 days of sun, salt air, wind, and rain. In that time, they’ve taken over 200,000 people sailing, possibly even you!

“With how much Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain sail, I would expect the current suit of sails to last a maximum of 8 to 10 years.”

Sean Rankins

Expert Sailmaker, NW Sails and Canvas, Port Townsend, WA

The Status Today: “Every Time We Touch [the Sail] a New Rip Appears”

Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain ask a whole lot of their sails. Combined, the tall ships carry over 8,500 square feet of sail, and operate almost 365 days a year. The current sails are holding up better than expected. But after 10 years in the Pacific Ocean, the sails are very fragile. Several sails are so worn they can barely hold the weight of a patch without tearing. The three sails that most urgently need to be replaced are the Hawaiian Chieftain inner jib and upper topsail, and Lady Washington’s spanker. The picture at the top of this article is Hawaiian Chieftain’s inner jib.

$12 = 1 Square Foot of Sail

A Call for Help

The GHHS staff began submitting grant requests for new sails in 2016. Many funders don’t support what they see as a “capital expenditure” (investment in physical assets such as property, buildings, or equipment), so the options for a grant like this are limited. Though we’ve had positive feedback on our applications, none have been funded, and time is running out. Not only do the tall ships need funding for their sails, it takes months to hand-finish traditional sails like those on Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain.

At this time, we must turn to the community to ask for help.

You know first-hand how important the sails are to everything Lady and Chieftain do. From kids’ education sails to cannon battle sails, and now The Seafarer Collective—every program relies on the tall ships getting new sails.

Over 200,000 people were able to go sailing because of the current suit of sails. That means that today, with sails costing $12 a square foot, every $12 donated means 24 people will sail.

If you can sponsor a sail, from $12 to $12,000, please make a donation today. The clock is ticking and every 50 cents raised makes a difference. Let’s stand together to make sure Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain get the first order of sails they so desperately need.

If you have any questions at all about the sails, please don’t hesitate to call or email me. You can reach me quickly at or call our main office at 360-532-8611. We are committed to being transparent, accountable, and answering any questions you have before you make a donation.

Sailing forward because of you,