From whiskey den to adventure vessel, resurrected tall ship sets sail for points south

TACOMA, Wash. — Jordan Hanssen says he’s doesn’t use the word resurrection lightly, but he can’t think of a better word to describe the story of the tall ship where he’ll spend the next month.

The 72-foot topsail schooner named Dirigo II was hidden away for its protection during World War II, it sailed twice around the world, it nearly sank in Mexico, it won races and it was once found rotting away in La Conner, Hanssen said.

Refurbished, the ship set sail recently from Friday Harbor on a journey of indefinite length. Hanssen, an ocean adventurer who graduated from the University of Puget Sound, hopes to serve on the crew as far as Mexico.

When he’s not swabbing the deck, he’s waxing poetic.

“There’s something way special about wooden boats that culturally and emotionally hits people,” Hanssen said. “… Once you pull life away from it, it starts to die. People are literally sweating on the decks to make it breathe and continue to go.”

If the crew doesn’t scrub the deck with saltwater at least once per day, the raw teak planks start to rot. By the time the crew reaches warmer southern locations, they’ll need to swab the decks three times per day. The process takes about 15 minutes, Hanssen said.

The ship was available for charters in recent years when it was based in the San Juan Islands, and Hanssen says the father-daughter captains, Arthur and Morgan Lohrey, hope to offer sailing experiences during the current voyage.

Credit: Courtesy of Dirigo II

Credit: Courtesy of Dirigo II

For a yet-to-be-determined fee, visitors can serve on the crew. They’ll help hoist the sails, scrub the deck and do all manner of work.

Hanssen, who has rowed across the Atlantic Ocean twice, says it’s an opportunity that should appeal to those who dream of nautical adventures.

The Dirigo II, sailing off the coast of Washington, has a story to tell. It’s a story Hanssen is piecing together during his time aboard.

It was built in 1939 in Maine, where the state motto is “Dirigo,” Latin meaning “I lead” or “I rule.” It was named after a schooner that was torpedoed in World War I. It was designed with the intent that it could sail in “any ocean, any weather,” Hanssen said. The phrase remains the ship’s motto.

As legend has it, Hanssen said, it was covered and stashed away during World War II. It was used to circumnavigate the globe twice. It once nearly sank on a recreational voyage to Mexico. And at one point it sat rotting in La Conner, where a man used it as whiskey den, Hanssen said.

The ship was in disrepair when Arthur Lohrey acquired it about a decade ago. Hanssen said the value of the ship has increased from about $200,000 to $600,000. It is listed for sale online for $540,000.

“Ships like these pretty much always have to be for sale,” Hanssen said, referring to the time, money and energy it takes to maintain a large wooden ship. “But among people who love wooden boats, there’s this responsibility to be stewards of these ships.”