Bob Kennedy and the Crew of the Lady Washington

Bob Kennedy on the Lady Washington Sailing Vessel
Interview by Dmae Roberts and Sara Kolbet
Date: 9/7/05
1 Disc, 73:38, 18 Tracks

TRACK 1 – 5:01


DMAE: Introduce yourself.

BOB: I’m Bob Kennedy. I’m the Steward on the Tall Ship Lady Washington.

DMAE: How long?

BOB: I’ve been associated with the boat for about six years and I’ve crewed for almost 19 months now.

SARA: What is the steward?

BOB: I take care of the needs of the passengers, crew. I handle the manifest for people coming on board. Take care of the eeeuuu office communications.

SARA: How did you hear about the lady Washington?

BOB: I started out…I’ve always loved tall ships. And I never had an interest in sailing whatsoever and uhhh I’m also Heida, I’m northwest coast native. The original lady traded with my people for fur. They did not have a good relationship. I can go into a long story about that. The original ladeeee ummmm.

DMAE: Can you scoot in towards me?

BOB: the original lady had two captains. Her first captain was Robert Gray and her second captain was John Kendrick. Robert Gray came up and traded with the city of Skeguay. It’s now known as Ninstitz. It’s on the southern end of what you call Queen Charlotte Island. He traded a lot of furs, got good prices. He traveled back to base camp, which was Nootka Sound, Friendly Cove to them. And told John Kendrick bout it. JK traded ships with Gray and captained the lady up to segue to do some trading because he heard the furs were good quality and good prices.

DMAE: Tell me more about your people. Spell it.

BOB: HEIDA, Heida.

SARA: Where are they?

BOB: What you call the Queen Charlotte Islands. The next island from Vancouver Island on the NW coast. They were traders. As all insular people are they were powerful. They made the largest canoes on the NW coast. They made the longest longhouses on the west coast. They made the largest and tallest totem poles on the NW coast.

TRACK 2 – 5:01

A lot of the old photos of totem poles are Heida.

DMAE: Did you always know?

BOB: I knew.

SARA: How did you find out about LW?

BOB: I read a book called ‘Raven’s Cry’ and it starts from first contacts in the last century. And the first contact was with John Kendrick and the LW. And it was not good.

DMAE: How do you mean not good? What happened?

BOB: Kendrick came in and it was laundry day. He had laundry hanging in the rigging to dry. NW coast native tradition for tr4ading is you bring you goods, you place it on the beach, they grab what they want, take it home find something of equal value, bring it back and barter. The Heida thought that’s what was going on. They came and started taking the clothes and when JK’s third shirt went over, he lost it. He was a Quaker, he was a Bostonian, he was a Yankee, he was an ex-privateer. He had a strong sense of justice. He stormed into the city of Skeguay and rounded up the chief, Quoya, and one of the highborn males. He brought them back on board and lashed them to the guns, he tarred them and cut their hair. And there are only two times a traditional Heida cuts his hair – when he’s in mourning, when he’s a slave. So they lost a lot of prestige and prestige means everything to them. I hand it to Kendrick, eh kept trading. He could have held them captive, but he kept trading because he had dispensed justice. But he traded as his prices.

DMAE: Did they continue trading?

BOB: Oh yes. Quoya was let loose, went back to his village, but spent one full year potlatching trying to gain back prestige. And Kendrick came back in the LW and when he came in he was drunk or hung over. And he anchored off of Skeguay and dismissed the crew below deck. So there was only Kendrick and a gunner’s mate on the quarterdeck. After a while canoes pulled up and there were four or five canoes there. If you know something about NW coast native canoes, they can be 70 feet long. The LW is 68 feet long. Each canoe handled 30 paddlers and ten tons of cargo. So there were 60 to 80 Heida on deck and the gunner’s mate was elbowing Kendrick to get his attention. The crowed parted and up walked Quoya. He started berating Kendrick saying you’ve disgraced me. Kendrick was yelling to the crew below saying

TRACK 3 – 5:01

careful, we’ve got an angry Indian here, be prepared. Quoya gained as much face as possible and took out a dagger and took a swipe at Kendrick. Kendrick was slightly wounded and came down that companionway head over heals. The gunner’s mate went up the rigging and the Heida had the boat for about three hours. Heida was up there saying I have the boat I have cleared up the disgrace and Kendrick was down here talking to the crew and he took up a brace of pistols and broke into the cabin wall into the hold where the crew was. After about an hour the crew was going to give up and Kendrick rallied the crew and came up and killed 40 to 60 Heida. Then he spent a few hours shelling the village.

DMAE: A lot of blood here.

BOB: The first thing I had to do was a cleansing ceremony before I came on board and I had to search the hearts and spirits of the people who were here and the organization. We have done wonderful things since then.


DMAE: Swabbing the deck?

BOB: Yes. Constant maintenance.

DMAE: Describe this room.

BOB: This is the aft cabin on the LW. There is a rather steep companionway that leads from the quarter deck down to the deck of the great cabin. We have two bunks for the bosun and bosunmate. We have a small cabin for the captain and a smaller cabin for the first mate. The size of our mate’s closet is the size of two telephone booths, one vertical and one horizontal.

SARA: What is this boat as opposed to the original?

BOB: This boat is a 90, 95% reproduction of the original lady Washington on the outside. On the inside we’re very modern. We’re proud of the fact that we conform to all coast guard regulations and we’re very safe.

DMAE: So it’s not the actual boat.

BOB: it’s not the actual boat.

SARA: When was the first boat built and why?

BOB: She was a coastal trader. She was built around 1750 on the river Essex outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She was a UPS truck. She carried goods up and down the east coast. Everywhere from the Caribbean to Canada.

SARA: When did she come to this coast?

BOB: She survived the Revolutionary War either as a privateersman or a letter of mark and reprisal. A privateersman is a rent-a-navy. You go to the government and say you’re at war, my ship is at your disposal. They write you a writ that says you can take ships of the enemy. As you take them they go back into an admiralty court and are sold and the profits are split up

TRACK 4 – 5:01

between the ship and the government. A letter of mark and reprisal, if one of you ships are taken you say the enemy took my ship from me and it’s worth this month and they say you can take equal kind or more and you can take that much. Privateersmen were purposely built ships, letters of mark and reprisal were ships they ran across.




SARA: When did she come over here?

BOB: She survived the revolution and the depression following and in 1787 the guys in Boston read something interesting in cook’s journal where he sold one otter pelt in China for 700 dollars in that era’s money when a meal would coast a nickel. These five guys said aha and used the LW and the Columbia, the two ships of the…wouldn’t be a fleet, they were partners. And loaded them up with trade goods and sent them down around South America. They left Boston in 1787 and came up the coast in 1788. they went down south, Kendrick was a slow captain, they went down around Cape Horn. The Lady was the first American ship around Cape Horn and then came up the west coast of South America, Central America, Mexico. And as they did they stayed as far away from the lady as possible because the pacific was a Spanish lake at the time and if they had put into port hey would have been seized. Their first landfall was Tillamook and called it Murderer’s Cove.

DMAE: Why?

BOB: They made landfall because they needed water. Grey was in command of the Lady at the time. He bounced her across the bar on Tillamook to get water and cut some grass for the boat on board. Nancy was her name, the first boat to circumnavigate the world.


BOB: they went on shore.


BOB: That’s JB our first mate. Show them how small the cabin is?

JBOB: it’s a mess. It’s the size of two telephone booths. One standing vertically and one on it’s side, laying down and halfway up to the size of the other one. So for me to climb into bed I go from my vertical telephone booth and stick my feet into the coffin.

TRACK 5 – 5:01

BOB: And you share it with the starboard generator.

DMAE: What does the first mate do?

JBOB: A bit of everything.

DMAE: You’re sewing something.

JBOB: It’s my hat.

SARA: Where’d you get that?

JBOB: Boat had a few on board so I grabbed one.

SARA: How long have you been a first-mate?

JBOB: I’ve been a first-mate on and off 3 years now. I’ve just become a licensed first-mate I’ve got my captain’s licenses now, so I can work as a first-mate on shore and a captain on the waters.

DMAE: What made you want to come?

JBOB: This boat is my first boat and my sweetheart. And this ship focuses on sail training more than other ships, so we teach people how to sail.

DMAE: So you sail?

BOB: The LW is a wonderful sailboat and a terrible speedboat. So we sail 340 days a year.

SARA: When you’re sailing to somewhere why are you doing that?

BOB: WE split the year in half. The summer half we spend anywhere between Astoria Oregon and Skagway Alaska doing dockside tours. We’ve run programs for at-risk youth. This year we did tall-ships 5. and what we’re most proud of is we went up to the Tallaquit people and had a reconciliation. We helped heal a 200 year old wound.

DMAE: What was that?

BOB: We know one of the direct descendants of Robert Gray, he was touched by his family’s history, and he found Robert Gray had burned down a village of the Tonloquit people and he wanted to make restitution. And they got in touch with the Talaquit people and the direct descendants and about 10 of Will’s family came including cousins from Manchester, England. And came up to Upitsit and asked for forgiveness. And there was a big potlatch and it was very healing.

SARA: The lady Washington came over here for furs was the initial thing. how long did that go on?

BOB: No other trades. Sheee was over here from 1788 to about 1798, going back and forth across the pacific between what would e Washington state, Hawaii and china. Trying to carry on a fur trade.

DMAE: Describe the route.

BOB: Most of the early fur traders were based

TRACK 6 – 5:01

out of Nootka Sound and it was a very good anchorage. It was under nominally Spanish control at the time. They would sail up and down the uh west coast as far south as Astoria and as far north as cook inland and trade with the natives, take the boatloads of fur across the pacific to Macao or what would be Hong Kong. With a stop in Hawaii along the way.

DMAE: Where there Chinese and Hawaiians who settled here?

BOB: I know personally there were a lot of pacific islanders how ended up in Heidaguai. And I know of stories of boats that washed up on Heidaguai from China pre-contact.

DMAE: When is that?

BOB: 1492.

SARA: Chinese sailors?

BOB: The original LW was crewed with between 12 and 15 men and there was a constant leak of men off the boat because the Lady was engaged in the fur trade and a lot of sailors would jump ship in china and get on a home-bound ship.

DMAE: They were willing?

BOB: They got a wage, I’m not sure if it was like everyone else. The lady like she’s rigged now is how she was in 1781. before she was a sloop, a one-sail vessel. She was changed over in China.

DMAE: What was life like?

BOB: Rough, but good. You got 3 meals a day. You didn’t live with you farm animals.

DMAE: What was a day like?

BOB: You would have been on watches, we runnnn four ours on eight hours off but that’s a much more modern watch schedule than that. That is under sail. There would have been constant maintenance. As you came aboard you saw people doing maintenance.

DMAE: What was the timing?

BOB: Four to eight months from the coast to China. Eight to twelve months from Boston to the NW coast.

DMAE: So if we were to do a trade route, how do we go?

BOB: They would have, it would have taken eight months to a year to get to the NW coast from Boston. Then it took ummm six to ten weeks, we’re talking 18th century time. It’s what we affectionately call ‘Brig time’ to get to Hawaii. Then another two, three months to get to china. Depending on waves, typhoons. But there was a good reason to do it all over again. In the first years of the fur trade it was not uncommon to turn a 3000% profit.

DMAE: Did sailors do well?

TRACK 7 – 5:01

BOB: They could make enough to put themselves up in a small pub for the rest of their lives.

DMAE: What kind of man did you need to be?

BOB: Healthy, young. When I teach the life of a sailor to the kids I point out that if I was a sailor I would have been dead for 20 years. In the American merchant navy, opportunists. A lot of the captains had started out as seamen. They were profit driven. You have to understand that people back then, 99% of the people in the late 18th century, early 19th century never went more than 20 miles from home. These people saw the world.

DMAE: How long was the average life span?

BOB: The average life span was between 30, 35, 40 around there. That’s one of the reasons Ben Franklin dazzled Paris.

SARA: Sandalwood trade.

BOB: Kendrick basically established the sandalwood trade. To understand Kendrick you have to understand he was a Yankee. Everything he did he did to make a profit. When he came across on his first trip he stopped in Hawaii, saw these forests of sandalwood and said this is great stuff, I’m going to leave a sailor here. Going to tell him I’ll be back to pick up a load of lumber. Just left him there and sailed off. Came back on the next voyage and all the trees were standing and the sailor was gone.

DMAE: Why?

BOB: Going from uptight puritan Boston in the 1780s to Hawaii he went native. Kendrick, not willing to give up on a profit, put another guy in the forest with a hatchet and supplies and sailed I’ll be back and he left and came back and a couple of trees were down and the guy was gone. This happened a few times until he left a few guys there and opened up the sandalwood trade between Hawaii and China.

SARA: What was it like?

BOB: All I know is it was a very important trade item and I’m sorry I don’t have the history on it. they made great boxes and wonderful furniture and all for the mandarins.

TRACK 8 – 4:52

DMAE: Interesting the more we do this history how much there was globalization.

BOB: The American Revolution was the first global war.

DMAE: Ten where was all this trade.

BOB: The Heida in me ahs to say the natives were trading all up and down this coast. The Heida traded from the Russian River up to the Aleutians. And I have stories of the Heida going to Hawaii.

DMAE: Tell us.

BOB: I can’t. we were traders. Dentaliam, a trade shell, lives 70 feet beneath the ocean off of Vancouver Island. It has been found in Anastazi runs . It has been found in the great lakes. There was a great trade route in the north Americas.

DMAE: That’s good.

BOB: And that also explains why there was such problems between the traders in the first contact. Because you have two very different very powerful trading cultures clashing and both trying to make a profit. The natives got a lot out of the trade goods from Boston. They got chisels to make canoes better. A lot of the NW canoes were Heida. They could make better houses. They could do better trade goods. The beads they made were used as money up and down the coast. Each bead had a separate value.

DMAE: Were there reports of Chinese?

BOB: There are pieces of Chinese porcelain found on the coast of Heidaguay and accounts of strange boats with men washing up on shore.

SARA: Sailors would get washed up. Was there a sailor code?

BOB: Well, yeah. There is always a brotherhood of sailors. Anybody who risks their life at sea will do anything anybody needs who risks their life at sea.

SARA: Japanese sailors?

BOB: 1947 there is a famous case of them washing up on the BC coast. Also…

DMAE: Earlier history?

BOB: I have stories of pre-contact. I have several stories of strange vessels, non northwest coast native vessels washing up on shores with people on board.

DMAE: It’s weird to think about those boats.

BOB: Chinese boast were the most technologically advanced of their time. They had watertight compartments, batten sails, fully immersed rudders. A recent book 1491 about Chinese exploration in the pacific.

SARA: Say again the list of what the Chinese invented.

TRACK 10 – 5:01

SARA: Mention some of the inventions.

BOB: Chinese ships were incredibly seaworthy. They had watertight compartments before they were thought of in western civilization. They had batten sails which sail much more efficiently than unbattened sails. They had balanced rudders. They had the compass before the west. It’s not surprising they survived all the way across the pacific. 1491, the book about the exploration of the pacific.

DMAE: John Meares too?

BOB: One of my favorite books is, if you want to sum up Mears is the title of a book about John Meares called ‘Almost a Hero.’ John Meares is a wonderful sad sack. He came as close to being a brilliant man as you can possibly be and fail miserably at it. cape disappointment at the mouth of the Columbia was named as JM because he spent a full season looking for the river and sailed as far as that cape and turned around and went home.

SARA: Talk about his idea about bringing Chinese laborers.

BOB: If John Meares hadn’t been British he would have been a great Yankee. He wanted to break the fur monopolies the British had handed out and to do that he sailed under different flags, he brought Chinese laborers over to Nootka sound to build a ship that he had pre-fabricated and brought over. As I remember it was the northwest America and the adventure was the other one. Nootka sound is on the NW coast of Vancouver Island.

SARA: There was a letter written by a Chinese sailor on the LW?

BOB: It wasn’t a Japanese man, it was a Chinese man. A long time ago. As I remember it was about 1793,. 94, the fur trade was getting a little saturated at the time. The Chinese were getting smart

TRACK 11 – 1:28

to the fact that people were bringing first over for trading so they were bargaining hard. The agent, the captains were acting as their own agents and he didn’t like that they were getting bum prices from the Chinese. So Kendrick said I’m going to try marketing them somewhere else. He had heard about Nippon, about uhhhhh Japan.


TRACK 13 – 1:33

JBOB: And a huge trade system set up over the whole continent.

DMAE: What did she shout?

BOB: Main course. Food. They save dinner for me until the sail starts. So, those three hours a day, the rest of the day was for building culture, for storytelling. What more do you need than houses that can be 130 feet long, food to access, the NW coast natives did potlatches where they gave away wealth to others because they were wealthy.

DMAE: Other cultures needed things.


TRACK 14 – 5:01

SARA: They were looking for another place to trade.

BOB: John Kendrick the captain of the LW was looking for greener filed. The Chinese field was getting saturated so they cut the value. Kendrick heard about Japan and he decided to go over there. He knew it was a closed country and he knew it was hard to get to,


But he also knew that ummm he could use excuses to get in. and he used the excuse that he was ahhhh blown in by an ill wind and heeeee hit one of the southernmost cities, Kachimoto, sailed into the bay, dropped anchor and just stayed there waiting for the Japanese to come out to him. And the Japanese didn’t want to come out to him because they didn’t want anything to do with it or get the locallllll government mad at them. So for a day or two it was a standoff and eventually one of the officials came out to the boat. At that time Kendrick had a couple of Chinese crewmen on board soooooo the Japanese official knew Chinese so they had a common language but there were mistranslations and misunderstandings and Kendrick made his intentions known but he counted on the fact that the Japanese don’t’ wear furs.


BOB: He hadn’t counted on the fact that the Japanese don’t wear fur. It’s counted bad manners. He hung around for almost two weeks and during that time they did a little bird hunting with their guns and the Japanese didn’t understand why they were shooting these birds. Kendrick went to town and got this hair cut. He had red hair. He was there long enough for someone to paint his portrait. It is hanging in a memorial shrine in Kachimoto and it’s a good portrait of Kendrick looking Japanese with red hair. They found out that it was going to be a failed trade mission so they unanchored and left and during this time the local officials were talking and it got aback to Tokyo and three days after Kendrick left the shogunate army showed up to boot him out of

TRACK 15 – 3:18

Japan. So Kendrick was lucky then.

SARA: What do you know about Asian / Hawaiian sailors?

BOB: John Kendrick’s last breaths were in Hawaii. He and the Jackal, one of his competitor trading vessels were in Hawaii and one of Kamehameha’s relatives was consolidating power in Hawaii and was at war with another family and he asked the Jackal and the LW in assistance in putting down the uprising. They offered to help, they did help, Kamehameha’s relatives were victorious, and you have to remember the LW was 10 years out of the American Revolution, out of the articles of confederation, a young country and proud of the fact. JK asked for a salute to the American flag. The Jackal agreed to give the salute. They had 10 to 15 guns, the numbers varied. Usually they had 3 guns set aside for signaling and had gunpowder but no shot in the guns. So the gunner’s mate set off the fist one, counted to 20, set off the second, counted to 20 and went to the third and it misfired. And when you’re doing a salute the timing is important. And so he went to the next one which had gunshot in it and the ball went across the harbor and went through the hull of the LW and killed Kendrick and the first mate.

SARA: Typical day on the ship?


TRACK 16 – 5:01

BOB: Typical day you would be woken up for your watch and you would be sleepingnnnn amongst you cargo. All the space was utilized to carry cargo. So you’d slung your hammock in a small focsle or you slept among the cargo. You and your mates would uhhh get some food which consisted of salt junk, which is heavily salted meat. To give you an idea of how salty it was they would drag it behind the boat in barrels with holes to get the salt off. They would eat hardtack, which is flour, water, and heat over time. It’s a flower brick. And water that had possibly been in the barrel for three, six months. Soo they would eat that, then they would stand their watch, handle sails, so maintenance, splice lines, paint. This is their home and unlike your home if you don’t take care of your home you get a hole in the wall. On a boat if you don’t take care of your home it’s a long walk back. Maintenance was an important part.

DMAE: How did they go to the bathroom?

BOB: I will show you later. Right behind the figurehead there are three rails that connect the figurehead to the bow of the brig. They are the footrail, the backrail and the headrail. The foot rail is where you put your feet, the backrail is what you sit on and the headrail you lay your back against and you let fly. It was an 18th century bidet. I will show you we have a Mr. Scrungie, a piece of line that is unlaid and that is hung over the side of the boat and you use that.

DMAE: You do a tour. We’ll ask you about stuff. That’s why there weren’t women.

BOB: There were more women than people expect. The fastest clipper, the fastest time between NY and San Francisco was done by the Flying Cloud. The captain was down with an illness two or three days out of NY and his wife took over and she drove the ship faster than anyone else had on that trip.

SARA: Were they wives?

BOB: Wives nod nod wink wink.

DMAE: But nobody did it by trade? I knew there were women pirates.

TRACK 17 – 5:01

BOB: Um hum. There were women sailors.

SARA: And today…

BOB: The LW we have no quota system but most times we sail with a 50-50 crew and we prefer it that way. when there are too many men you suffer from testosterone poisoning and when there are too many women you suffer from estrogen poisoning. That’s t he way the lady likes it. Martha. The LW.

DMAE: Volunteer program?

BOB: Two weeks before the mast. You pay $350 and come for two weeks and become a crewmember, up in the riggings, sleep in the holds, trim the sails. We have 8 volunteers on the boat today. After two weeks you graduate to being a topman, which is a skilled position on a tall ship. There have been people who have not made it after two weeks. We have personal evaluations done by the officers of the volunteers.

DMAE: Can anyone do it?

BOB: We have Esther on the ship right now who was 14 when she first sailed up to a lady who was 82. you do have to have a note from your doctor saying you are able-bodied.


BOB: Consumables. Electricity, water, we worry about consumables all the time.

SARA: What else do you miss?

BOB: I don’t miss a thing. I don’t miss Seattle. I don’t miss anything. They’re getting me off the boat because I’ve been on for 18 months and they think I need a rest. Life is safe inside the yellow rails, outside the yellow rails it’s scary. I would gladly work this boat as long as I’m a valuable asset to the boat.

SARA: What do you do when you’re off?

B; Want to get back on. I work with crew, I have a family of over 450 people on this boat. I put my life in their hands every day. If they don’t belay a line correctly I can die. I trust these people, every stinking’ one of them.

TRACK 18 – 5:01

These people are aces. I won’t use the word hero because being a hero means you’ve gone through the worst day of your life.

DMAE: How long is your break?

BOB: They’ve assigned me two months but I’ll be back.

SARA: While you’re on here they feed you as long as you’re on the ship.

DMAE: You’ll be home for two months?

BOB: No, I’ll e away from home for two months. I’m going to work at the seaport straightening out some office problems. I spent three months getting the ship ready for Tall Ships 2005. I want to carry on doing that for all the ports we visit in CA and OR.

DMAE: You visit schools?

BOB: We bring schools down to the boat and we take them out sailing. That’s what we do in the winter, we bring students down to the boat and we teach. Last year we had 14,000 students aboard. We specialize in 4, 5, 6th grade but we’ve tailored it down to kindergarten or high school.

DMAE: Do any writing?

BOB: On the website if you see CHB that’s me. Crazy Heida Bob.

DMAE: Any accounts we could dramatize?

BOB: The best I’ve found is Raven’s Cry by Christy Harris. Still in print at the U of Washington press. This is the Heida side of the history. Hail Columbia is a good book on the lady and the Columbia and Robert Gray and Kendrick. It just went out of print.

DMAE: On the website you drew from that?

BOB: Six years before I became crewmember I was portside historian and pored over as many books as I could.

DMAE: On your two months you could write a novel.

BOB: One of our captains is already doing that. This is my Sunday go-to-meeting hat. When I’m out in front of the crowd I wear this and when I’m in the crew. First and foremost I’m a sailor and when you go up in the rigging nothing can fall off of you? I brought that hat along, it was made by a Heida friend of mine.

TRACK 19 – 2:07

SARA: Anything else?

BOB: Come on down to the Lady. We’re a Brig.

SARA: What do you call the LW?

BOB: I call the LW home. Second, she’s a brig. She has two masts, square sails o the two masts with a spanker main. So that’s a brig. When you talk about a ship in this time period it’s a specific vessel, it’s a three-mast vessel with square sails.

DMAE: Why do we think it’s a jail?

BOB: Because brigs were thick in the water and when they became unseaworthy they would use them as prisons. They would tie them out in the bay and fill them with prisoners.

DMAE: UPS should pay you.