The topsail ketch Hawaiian Chieftain is a replica of a typical European merchant trader of the turn of the nineteenth century. Her hull shape and rigging are similar to those of Spanish explorer’s ships used in the expeditions of the late 18th century along the Washington, Oregon, and California coasts. Built of steel in Hawaii in 1988 and originally designed for cargo trade among the Hawaiian Islands, her design was influenced by the early colonial passenger and coastal packets that carried on coastal trade along the 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.
Purchased in 2004 by the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, Hawaiian Chieftain joins Lady Washington, the Official Ship of the State of Washington, in educational cruises and ambassadorial visits along the west coast throughout the year.