Adventuress gets new wheel, but search for schooner’s stolen wheel continues
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Alea Robertson polishes the newly acquired wheel for the schooner Adventuress in preparation for several coats of varnish. The wheel replaces one that was stolen in Olympia last summer. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — A new ship’s wheel in replacement of one stolen last summer is being installed in the schooner Adventuress as part of winter repairs.

But the search for the stolen wheel continues.

“This isn’t over. We are still looking,” said Catherine Collins, executive director of Sound Experience, the educational foundation that manages the 100-year-old vessel.

“It is our hope that sometime this year during our centennial celebration that the original wheel will be recovered and we can restore it to where it belongs.”

The wheel was stolen in the early hours of Oct. 7 while the ship was moored at Percival Landing, a public dock in Olympia.

A sailing was planned that day, and a loaner wheel was secured that was used for the remainder of the sailing season.

The wheel, borrowed from an anonymous antiques dealer, subsequently was purchased and is being refinished in anticipation of this year’s sailing season, which begins at the end of March.

There have been no recent developments in the case, according to the Olympia Police Department.

After securing the replacement wheel, Collins traveled to New Bedford, Mass., and met with representatives of the Edson Co., which built the first wheel that was used on the Adventuress in the early 1900s.

The company’s owners, who are descended from the original craftspeople, offered Collins a deal on a replacement wheel that still ended up being too expensive, even with a discount.

“It would be so beautiful to have that wheel for our centennial; it would be icing on the cake,” Collins said.

“But we can’t afford the $5,000 it would cost right now since we need to repair the mast and other parts of the ship.”

Collins said there is a possibility of a separate fundraising effort for a new wheel at a later date.

If a new wheel is acquired or the old one recovered, then the replacement wheel, which was purchased for under $1,000, would be used as a spare, she said.

The permanent wheel will be fastened securely to the ship in order to prevent a future theft, she said.

Volunteers are now sanding the outer rim of the replacement wheel in preparation for several coats of varnish.

The spokes aren’t being stripped or refinished because of time constraints, according to volunteer Alea Robertson.

“We have a lot to do in a short time, and doing the spokes would take another couple of days,” Robertson said.

Among the tasks slated for completion is the replacement of the mast and hull timbers.

This year’s renovation represents the fourth of five phases of a $900,000 renovation project that Collins said will prepare the vessel for another 100 years of use.

“The beauty of the ship is that it goes on and on,” Collins said.

“And the improvements we are making today will live beyond us.”

Collins said the Adventuress’ centennial will last all year and will culminate in a Sept. 20 fundraiser at Seattle’s newly renovated Museum of Science and Industry.

The centennial’s kickoff event is less exclusive. A “flash chantey mob” is planned for 12:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, at the Adventuress’ dry dock in the Boat Haven.

The day coincides with the time that the Adventuress first splashed into the water in East Boothbay, Maine, on Feb. 1. 1913.

Together, the public will sing several verses of “Paddy Lay Back,” a chantey that a century ago likely would have been sung aboard.

The event will be recorded and posted on YouTube.

Representatives of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream also will be on hand to distribute free cones and dishes for the occasion.

Those who cannot attend are encouraged to record “Paddy Lay Back” wherever they are that day and post it on Facebook at “Sound Experience Aboard the Schooner Adventuress.”

To learn “Paddy Lay Back” and how to participate, visit Sound Experience’s website,, to see a brief instructional video and the chantey’s lyrics.

The Adventuress was built by John Borden with the purpose of sailing to Alaska but instead was sold a year later to the Port of San Francisco as a pilot ship.

It was sold again in 1952 and moved to the Pacific Northwest.

The nonprofit Sound Experience, based in Port Townsend, has operated the schooner for educational purposes since 1989.

In recent years, an average of 5,000 people annually have participated in its sailing programs, with that many again visiting the ship in port.

For more information or to volunteer, phone 360-379-0438 or visit


Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at

Last modified: January 24. 2013 7:12PM
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