Slide show | The final voyage of the Wawona

One of my first assignments as a reporter at The Seattle Times was to walk down to the South Lake Union waterfront and write a story about a classic old ship with three towering wooden masts. The headline read, in hopeful tones, “Aging Schooner’s Restoration Begins.”

But it didn’t. Or it wasn’t enough to turn back the tide of time eating away at its 111-year-old timbers. During her heyday, the Wawona carried cod and lumber in her thick-sided holds. But her last cargo was simply the best of intentions never fulfilled.

This morning, I again found myself down at the South Lake Union waterfront to witness what had sadly become inevitable—the  Wawona’s last voyage. Just after 8 a.m., she was towed a quarter-mile away to Lake Union Drydock, where her once sturdy hull and deck will be cut into pieces. Some of her most significant parts will be saved and displayed, a reminder of the kind of boats—and people—that once plied these waters.

The sea chantey sung before Wawona departed was a fitting tribute. It was time for her to go.

6 Responses to Slide show | The final voyage of the Wawona

  1. Sharon Peaslee October 20, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    The “Wawona” was captained by an ancestor of mine, Cap’t Ralph E. Peasley from 1899-1906. He was born 1866 and died Dec 13, 1948.
    He is quite the legend in and around Gray’s Harbor. He retired from the sea after his favorite ship the ‘Vigilant” was laid up in the late 1920’s.

  2. Rob Leighton May 21, 2009 at 7:57 pm #

    As a young child I studied every book about sailing ships and chooners such as the Wawona, I have spent most of my lifetime learning about clipper ship design and am setting up a shop to start building old sailing ship replicas.

    I am seriously considering building the Wawona or any ship like here that has a history of the NorthWest. After studying how many (Hundereds) of sailing ships that graced the NorthWest from 1850 to early 1900’s, it is a shame that we do not even have one example of any of them left. When we had the chance to restor the Wawona in the 1980’s, know one even came forward to invest in our last historical sailing ship, even though the Northwest has enjoyed the most prosperous last 20 years than anywhere in the country. Just shows how much we value our own history. Shame on us!

    If anyone has any information that would help me recreate this or any other northwest sailing ship, please email me at

  3. Rebekah Denn March 19, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    Marty, I just saw this. I wrote a story about the Wawona years back, too, and I always hoped against hope that she would make it. Thanks for chronicling the final journey. It seems like such a waste…

  4. Brian H March 11, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    Good intentions are in abundant supply in this town, but it would have cost $10 million to restore Wawona and at least tens of thousands a year to maintain.

    The well intentioned employees of the center for wooden boats, who spend their working days maintaining the old boat legacy, were unanimously happy to see Wawona go.

  5. Christian Holtz March 9, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    Now why couldn’t the Wawona be sunk to become a reef for marine life and a wreck for divers to explore in a marine park like Edmonds? Seems to me this would be a cheaper option than cutting her up and she would have a longer-lasting legacy. Instead 90% of her is going into a landfill.

  6. Greg March 6, 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    Wonderful assembly of photos and sound, Marty! I love the final shot of the vacant spot. Plus the stern photo, showing the decay.

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