Opinion

Ahoy to tall ships after a nine-year layoff

From the Editorial Board

Donning his finest pirate gear, Ashton Krajeski waits aboard the Lady Washington with other passengers as they prepare to take a tour of the South Sound. The Grays Harbor-based ship is one of nearly two dozen invited to this weekend’s Festival of Sail Tacoma.
Donning his finest pirate gear, Ashton Krajeski waits aboard the Lady Washington with other passengers as they prepare to take a tour of the South Sound. The Grays Harbor-based ship is one of nearly two dozen invited to this weekend’s Festival of Sail Tacoma. Olympian file photo, 2008

Like a red sky at night, organizers have promised four days of delight at the Festival of Sail Tacoma, which opens Thursday. As many as 20 schooners and other eye-catching rigged sailing ships, plus a handful of non-masted vessels, will tie up along the Thea Foss Waterway for tours and trips. A bounty of food and entertainment will be available. (Dare we hope for a sea shanty from Symphony Tacoma?)

Most important, the weather forecast is shaping up nicely after a soggy start. The sun should be shining Saturday and Sunday, when Father’s Day weekend landlubbers will be looking to treat Dad to an excursion brimming to the gunwales with manly fun.

Don’t expect a carbon copy of the Tall Ships Festivals that had Tacoma beaming with pride in 2005 and swooning from a half-million dollar deficit in 2008. Local boosters wisely took time to regroup after hitting the shoals of poor weather, a tough economy and low ticket sales nine years ago. This time, they hired an out-of-state event production company with deep experience running waterfront ship festivals. There also will be an emphasis on multiple-masted ships, with fewer small sloops.

Traffic is a bit of a concern, as high school graduations and other activities will compete for space downtown. The city has announced restrictions on Schuster Parkway and South 15th and Dock streets.

We’re also not so sure why organizers brought in a six-story-tall rubber duck. It resembles an irradiated creature from a 1950s Japanese science-fiction movie more than a piece of maritime history.

But all in all, the Festival of Sail seems to have the wind at its back for a pleasant weekend. Somewhere the late Stan Selden, skipper of Tacoma’s previous tall ship celebrations, is smiling and saying “ahoy.”

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