October 3rd Friday Speaker: Navigating Our Historic Fleet in the New Seattle

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Each month CWB finds a speaker of wit and experience to talk about his or her special knowledge. It is also an opportunity for CWB members to meet one another and the staff. Program runs from 7:00 to 9:00, with opportunities to ask questions. October’s 3rd Friday lecture will be held on October 16th.

A sea change is happening in Seattle as 7,000 new residents arrive each month—the vast majority having no idea that Seattle is and always has been one of the world’s major maritime cities. Long before Amazon, Microsoft, or even Boeing, maritime commerce defined this region. Puget Sound teemed with fishing vessels, tugs, barges, dugout canoes, battleships, coasting schooners, cruisers, trans-oceanic sailing ships, scows, and bulk cargo steamers. This incredible diversity of watercraft created the vibrant maritime economy that built the Northwest as we know it today.

Nathaniel Howe will speak about the role of the city’s largest preserved historic vessels docked at the Historic Ships Wharf at Lake Union Park. He’ll recount their pasts, examine their present state, and look ahead to their futures. As more and more people arrive eager to put down roots in Seattle, the need for preserving iconic vessels from our vibrant maritime past becomes ever more important. These ships can play a critical role in helping newcomers to plant their new roots in the culture of the Northwest—a culture of rich maritime activity.

Very few of these vessels remain and, worse yet, new residents coming to Seattle often never learn of them. Seattle’s maritime heritage organizations, such as The Center for Wooden Boats, Northwest Seaport, and The Steamer Virginia V Foundation therefore have greater importance than ever. Each group’s mission to engage, educate, and inspire people with our region’s maritime past has renewed scope and urgency.

Today, only the fishing fleet retains a sizable number of historic vessels. The rest have disappeared with changing technologies. Museums and maritime heritage non-profits have managed to rescue a few representative examples over the past 50 years, including some of our bigger ships, but capturing living examples of our region’s maritime roots for newcomers and Seattle-born residents alike will take increased efforts. Preserving historic vessels is a struggle and the bigger the vessel, the bigger the challenge. Many attempts to save large ships have ended in disappointment and the lessons of these cases are important to study.

Nathaniel Howe is the new Executive Director and former Nautical Archaeologist and Vessel Manager for Northwest Seaport. A Seattle native, he has a B.A. in history and museum studies from Wisconsin’s Beloit College and a M.A. in nautical archaeology from East Carolina University. He trained at Mystic Seaport, sailed tall ships, and later received a Fulbright Scholarship for two years of study at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. Since 2012, he has been at Northwest Seaport, where his projects included overseeing vessel maintenance and restoration work on Lightship No. 83 Swiftsure (1904) and the tugboat Arthur Foss (1889).

The event is free (donations are welcome) and light refreshments will be available.

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2 thoughts on “October 3rd Friday Speaker: Navigating Our Historic Fleet in the New Seattle”

  1. Barbara says:

    is that figure really true—that 7000 new residents are moving into Seattle each month?

    1. Judie says:

      That’s what the Seattle Chamber of Commerce says.

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