Annual wildfires in the West are becoming the new normal. As communities in Northern and Southern California are beginning the recovery process from this Autumn’s devastating wildfires, Grays Harbor Historical Seaport is keeping our friends and supporters in these areas at the forefront of our minds. Wildfire danger is something that will likely affect more and more of our tall ship programs in the years to come. Because of this, GHHS wants to fill you in on how we make decisions during wildfire season and what you can do to prepare to your sail.

Safety and health

The care of our guests is our primary concern at all times. Our command staff on each vessel are professionally trained and licensed sailors who would never compromise the safety of those aboard Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. While you are on our vessels, your health needs will always be treated seriously and our crew will offer whatever support they can to accommodate you, whether that’s finding you a shady space to sit below deck, a glass of water, etc.

Weather related cancellations

When our Captains indicate it is no longer safe to go sailing, we will cancel our programs. If a program has not be explicitly cancelled by the command staff, that means we plan to honor our sail times as scheduled. There are a variety of weather sources our crew uses to determine if the tall ships can safely bring passengers aboard the vessel for a sail. These sources include Coast Guard and ship reports, weather advisories, and local alerts. While no one on our staff is in a position to offer medical advice, we trust the expertise of the Captain’s, based on the information available to them, to decide when to cancel and when to proceed with a sailing program.

Refunds and Exchanges

When GHHS cancels a sail, all purchasers are issued a full refund. If a sail is set to go on as planned but a ticket purchaser or school is not comfortable participating, they are always welcome to call our office for refund options. For individual sailing tickets, a full refund (minus transaction fees) can be granted up until the time of the sail. School programs that cancel with more than 7 days notice are entitled to a full refund of their deposit payment; cancellations with less than a week’s notice result in a school forfeiting their deposit payment. For both public sail ticket purchasers or school groups, an exchange for a future sailing date is an available option as an alternative to a refund. GHHS is happy to hold a school’s deposit payment for a future field trip during the tall ships next visit to that port.

Making the most of your sail

We want your time with us to be as enjoyable as possible. During wildfire season we know that the smell may be alarming and that breathing may be challenging for vulnerable passengers. Some guests of Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain have brought disposable breathing masks or improvised masks with bandannas. Windbreakers or rain jackets may be a good top layer, as ash and other particulates may soil cotton or other fabrics. And as we think of the safety of those most affected by these disasters, the appearance of the sky during a wildfire is a fearsome but unique visual backdrop for photographers and journalists who may want to document the reality of life in Western maritime communities during wildfire season.

We at GHHS like to wish “fair winds” when signing off on our correspondence. To all of our friends impacted by fire and extreme weather, we hope fair winds and better days are in your future especially. Thank you for your support of our tall ships and programs; we will always try to provide you a safe and memorable experience to share with your family and neighbors.

Do you have ideas to help prepare guests for sails during wildfire season? Are there useful air quality advisory sources you use to determine weather safety? We would love to hear from you at hello@historicalseaport.org.