Hawaiian Chieftain

Hawaiian Chieftain

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Built of steel in Hawaii in 1988 and originally designed for cargo trade among the Hawaiian Islands, naval architect Raymond H. Richards’ design for Hawaiian Chieftain was influenced by the early colonial passenger and coastal packets that traded among Atlantic coastal cities and towns. The coastal packet service was part of the coasting trade based on mercantile activity of the developing seaboard towns. The early packet ships were regular traders and were selected because they sailed remarkably well and could enter small ports with their shallow draft. Out of the gradual development of the Atlantic packet ship hull form came the ship design practices that helped produce some of the best of the clipper ships of the later 1850s.

Des Kearns, Raymond Richards, Drake ThomasHawaiian Chieftain was commissioned by Laurence H. “Baron” Dorcy, Jr., and constructed by Drake Thomas, owner of Lahaina Welding Co., Ltd. on the island of Maui. An article by artist and historian Herb Kane about Maui’s King Kahekili was Thomas’ inspiration for the name “Hawaiian Chieftain.” Master lofting was completed by Morgan Davies, with assistance from Raymond Richards. Ship welding was performed by Morgan Davies, Ken Bear, Bill Purvis, Lionel Clemons and Oliver Pagttie. Ship’s rigging was undertaken by George Herbert, Ivan Hope and Jack Finney. Principal ship’s carpenters included Baron Thomas, Byron Rodin, Jack Swendson, Dan Roberts, Chris Longmire, Dan Howes and Neil Saulmier.

The machinery and propulsion professionals included Alan Fleming and Paul Gurdy, and the ship’s electrical systems were installed by Charles De Gruchy and Paul Dobbs. They were assisted by Doug Leppard, Lee Utke, Robert Hunziker, Carl Geringer, and others. Capt. Des Kearns played a key role as a project director from early 1987 until launch on June 12, 1988. Hawaiian Chieftain then sailed to Tahiti, other destinations in the South Pacific, and San Francisco. The ship was purchased by Capt. Ian MacIntyre of Central Coast Charters in Sausalito.

Hawaiian Chieftain launchIn 1993, Lady Washington joined Hawaiian Chieftain for their first mock sea battle on San Francisco Bay. 1996, GHHSA formed a partnership with Central Coast Charters to continue working together. In Fall 2004, Hawaiian Chieftain was sold to Wolverine Motorworks of Fall River, Mass., and she was renamed Spirit of Larinda. GHHSA purchased the vessel in October 2005.

Hawaiian Chieftain now joins Lady Washington, the Official Ship of the State of Washington, in educational cruises and ambassadorial visits along the west coast throughout the year. Hawaiian Chieftain also makes solo port visits as a sail training and education vessel. Hawaiian Chieftain is a U.S. Coast Guard inspected and certified passenger sailing vessel.

Help us celebrate the 25th birthday of Hawaiian Chieftain by telling us your stories. When did you sail on her? What was it like in the early days? Email your story to ghhsa_admin@historicalseaport.org and be sure to include your snapshots!


Hawaiian Chieftain Statistics
Tonnage: 64 net, 80 gross
Type: Gaff-rigged Topsail Ketch
Sail Area: 4,200 sq. ft.
Ballast: 20,000 lbs. lead
Designer: Raymond Richards
Engines: Twin 235 hp diesel Volvo TAMD 61
Builder: Lahaina Welding Co., with master lofting and welding by Capt. Morgan Davies
Lead Shipwright: Drake Thomas
Year: Manufactured 1988
Hull Material: Steel
Tankage (fuel): 1,800 gals
Tankage (water): 1,800 gals
Range: 2,000 miles at cruising speed of 7 knots, maximum 10 knots
Length on Deck: 65′
Length Overall: 103′ 9″
Length at Waterline: 57′
Beam (Width): 22′
Draft (Depth): 5′ 6″
Mast: 75′

Image credits: Top: Ron Arel; middle and lower: Lance Thomas.

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