Tall masted ships sail into Foss Waterway

Tacoma - Sally Sharrard stood on the teak deck as gentle waves rocked the schooner Lavengro.

“Feel that motion?” she said. “Ah, we’re back at home.”

Sharrard said her family comes from a long line of sailors and ship builders, including ancestors who arrived in America on the Mayflower. She spent her youth sailing Lake Huron.

“I’m just a boat person. It’s in the blood,” the Tacoma woman said. “Once you get into it, it kind of suckers you in. You’ve got to get on board and really feel it.”

The Lavengro, tied to a dock at the Foss Waterway Seaport, was one of 12 tall-masted ships in Tacoma for the Schooner Rendezvous.

Organizers say it’s a good way to expose the public to sailing and to preserve maritime history. It’s also a chance for captains and crew from different boats to meet up.

Kevin Connally, 22, is carpenter on the Lavengro, which is based in Brownsville, north of Bremerton. He grew up in Tacoma’s Proctor District and attended Covenant High School.

“This is awesome to come home to a festival,” he said, adding that he planned to invite the crew over to his parents’ house for dinner.

As the schooner arrived in Tacoma, he gave a visual tour to fellow crew members, pointing out landmarks such as Stadium High School and First Presbyterian Church.

On Sunday night he planned to take them to another Tacoma waterfront icon – The Spar.

Many of the schooners, now used for pleasure sailing or charters, carry stories from their past. Some were used to haul shrimp and oysters. Another carried granite. The W.N. Ragland, built in 1913, was once owned by musician Neil Young, who elaborately restored it. People viewing it Saturday described it as “beautiful” and “exquisite.”

Crew members of the schooner Zodiac donated their time and skill on Saturday and Sunday for trips for youths.

“Tacoma, as a port city, the kids look at water all day, yet they’ve never been on a boat,” said Lori Crace, Metro Parks special events coordinator. “They don’t know about tides, marine life or the history of the maritime trade. Getting them on sailing ships is such a confidence builder. They find out they can do things they never dreamed they could.”

Saturday’s sailing carried 49 youths and chaperones from Pierce County 4-H, Consejo Counseling, Youth Empowerment Project from World Vision and the Metro Parks outdoor adventures program from Lincoln Center.

“When you see them out on the water, you don’t realize how big they are until you’re standing right next to it,” said Olivia Johnson, 13, of Olympia. She went on the sailing with her father, Brian, and her mother, Jennifer, who runs the Portland Avenue technology lab for Pierce County 4-H.

“Instead of just being on a boat floating, they got to pull on some ropes and steer it,” Brian Johnson said. “If you want to get someone interested, that’s how you do it.”

Cole Cosgrove: 253-597-8267