The three-masted, bald-headed (having no topmasts) Wawona is the largest
sailing schooner built in North America. Constructed by Hans Bendixen
at Fairhaven, California, she began her career in 1897 as a lumber ship,
making quick runs up and down the Pacific Coast. In 1914, after 17 years
of carrying lumber, she became part of the codfishing fleet that operated
in the Bering Sea. By 1940 her crews had caught 6,830,400 codfish, a world's
record for a catch by a single vessel. Conscripted during World War II
for government use as a barge, she was re-rigged in 1946 and had two last
seasons of codfishing. The Wawona then sat in port for nine years.
In 1952, Capt. Ralph E. Petersen sought to turn Wawona into a South
Seas cruise ship, but this plan ended due to a lack of funds. Even her
1953 purchase by cattle rancher William Studdart and film star Gary Cooper
failed to return her to the sea. The pair had planned to export beef cattle
to the Soviet Union, but the deal fell apart during negotiations with
the Russians. Fortunately, California's new maritime museum sparked public
interest in rapidly disappearing historic ships and the public raised
the money to save the Wawona from demolition. In 1964, Seattle's
Northwest Seaport purchased her in order to create a maritime museum for
Puget Sound. The last member of the Northwest's commercial sailing fleet,
the Wawona is associated with an industry that shaped the growth
and history of the Northwest.
The Wawona was located on Lake Union, just north of downtown
Seattle, and operated as a museum ship until she was dismantled in 2009. For
information about other historic ships, visit the Historic Naval Ships Association website.