Historic sailboat visits Bainbridge Island

Battling Arctic weather, WWII, and modern theft, the 99 year old schooner still has wind in its sails.

Bainbridge Island had a special guest sail into its safe harbor this week.

Using a borrowed wheel, the historic schooner Adventuress journeyed into Eagle Harbor for its final adventure of the season.

The massive sailboat is docked in full view from the waterfront trail near the Harbor Pub.

“She’s coming to wrap up her sailing season,” said Catherine Collins, executive director for Sound Experience, the nonprofit that oversees the renowned vessel.

“We’ve been all over Puget Sound,” she said. “We’ve been everywhere from Olympia to the San Juan Islands. We’ve been running thousands of programs for children and adults — until it started raining.”

Sound Experience conducts educational programs about sailing and the Puget Sound for youth. The historic boat comes to Bainbridge Island to complete one last educational mission for students from the island’s Madrona School, and to take a brief trip around the Sound for the organization’s members, before docking during the winter.

“We bring them out on a 99-year-old historic schooner,” Collins said. “They go out on the water, raise the sails, take the helm and run through a variety of workshops to learn about things like marine mammals and ocean acidification.”

“She’s an educational vessel and we take that seriously,” Collins added.

While she’s educational, the Adventuress is also quite historic. The vessel is a registered national historic landmark.

“Essentially she is an original from an era that no is longer — the era of the schooner,” Collins said. “There’s not too many of these left.”

The gorgeous, all-wooden sailboat is just months short of its 100th birthday in February. It’s 133 feet long from end to end and can sleep a crew of 36.

Forged in a time when wooden ships still challenged the expanse of sea, the Adventuress was destined for a life that her name implies.

The schooner was originally built in 1913 for explorer John Borden, who sailed her from Maine to Alaska.

“She sailed to Boston with six inches of ice on her rigging, and was heading for the Arctic,” Collins said. “She came west and hasn’t been back since.”

Borden hoped to capture a bowhead whale for the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

While Borden’s whale mission failed, the boat has since had various other adventures along the way. It was sold to a company in San Francisco where she became a working boat. She transported sailors to and from ships during World War II. The Adventuress finally sailed to Seattle in 1960 under private ownership.

The Adventuress was restored in 1988 to her original glory and began her time with Sound Experience, an organization dedicated to educating Pacific Northwest youth.

Morley Horder, owner of Eagle Harbor Book Co., is chiefly responsible for the boat’s restoration and career as an educational vessel.

Of course, maintaining a ship of such value takes work and money. Sound Experience is currently running its annual fundraiser to keep up the ship.

This year, though, raising funds is perhaps even more important. The Adventuress suffered a considerable loss on Sunday morning, Oct. 7, when the ship’s wheel was discovered missing while it was docked in Olympia.

“There were people on board asleep below deck,” Collins said. “The fact we didn’t hear them it means they were very good at what they did and they were intent on stealing it.”

Olympia police sent divers into the bay around the boat in case pranksters threw it overboard, but nothing was found.

“The wheel itself — the wood part is 10 years old,” Collins said. “It was made by a woodworker in Portland.”

The wooden portion of the wheel has commonly been replaced over the years. The metal hub of the wheel, however, is likely original.

The vessel has been using a borrowed wheel since the theft.

Donations to the Adventuress for her maintenance, and contributions to Sound Experience’s educational mission, can be made at www.soundexp.org. Sailing enthusiasts can also purchase memberships to take multiple journeys on the boat during the summer season.

“The one word you can describe us as is totally inclusive. We want everybody to be involved with this,” Collins said. “The only reason this ship is here is because it is really embraced and beloved by the community.”