Historic steamer Virginia V, celebrating centienneal, sails on

Vashon Heritage Museum will celebrate the 100th birthday of the historic steamer Virginia V with a four-hour circumnavigation cruise of Vashon and an hour-long kid’s cruise around Blake Island.

The Vashon Heritage Museum will celebrate the 100th birthday of the historic steamer Virginia V with a suite of programming and events this month detailing the history of the boat, highlighted by a four-hour circumnavigation cruise of Vashon and an hour-long kid’s cruise around Blake Island.

The cruises will both take place on Saturday, Aug. 20, with the kids’ tour to Blake Island having a check-in time of 10:30 a.m, at the North End Passenger Ferry Dock. The circumnavigation cruise will depart at 12:30 p.m., from the same point.

“We are excited to bring the Virginia V back to the island during the ship’s centennial year, ” said Elsa Croonquist, Vashon Heritage Museum’s executive director, adding that she was especially glad to offer the kids’ and family cruise, thanks to generous sponsorships by island businesses, foundations and King County’s 4Culture.

The kids’ and family cruise will feature educational maritime stations around the Virginia V and has been designed as a learning experience for children and their parents, grandparents, and guardians, providing an intimate look at the inner workings of a steamship boat.

“We want Vashon families to know about this one -hour cruise that allows kids to experience the thrill of travel on an authentic boat run under the power of steam,” said Croonquist. “Plus there is the opportunity to stand on the deck and feel the power of the ship underneath you and the wind in your hair — it’s going to be a fun morning and I think it will be a thrill for kids.”

The Virginia V is a steamboat, made from local old-growth fir, that serviced Vashon Island and surrounding communities from 1922 to 1938. It is one of two remaining vessels of her kind and is a National Historic Landmark.

The Heritage Museum has long offered a yearly circumnavigation cruise of Vashon, but that took a pause between COVID and major repairs to the Virginia V. The boat was out of service for the majority of 2021, due to repairs involving a fungus in the wood surrounding the hull, resulting in the replacement of nearly 80 percent of its planking and 40 percent of its framing.

Work on the Virginia V was finished on July 1; now, Debra Alderman, executive director of The Steamer Virginia V Foundation, is excited for the steamer to be back out on the water as a symbol of Puget Sound’s history and education for the future.

“The continued existence of the Virginia V serves as a way to teach the public about our region’s maritime history and how the technology of steam was key to Puget Sound’s development,” said Alderman. “We use it not only as an excursion vessel but also a training vessel for those who are considering going into maritime careers.”

In addition to the cruise, the Heritage Museum will open a new mini-exhibit, “Virginia V: 100 Years in Service,” on Aug. 5. Running through October, the exhibit will examine Virginia V’s century of maritime service to Vashon and examine its legacy and achievements of historical preservation.

“The First Friday exhibit opening will give Vashon a look at long ago and life on Vashon when we were dependent on the Mosquito Fleet for transportation, and the importance of all of the docks that existed in every community around the island,” said Croonquist.

In another celebration of the Virginia V’s birthday, the Museum’s August “Museum Talk” will feature Edward Brown, head docent for The Steamer Virginia V Foundation, in a presentation titled “History of the Virginia V: Still Steaming After 100 Years.” During the Talk, Brown will explore the Virginia V’s history and its specific impact on the Vashon communities along Colvos Passage. The free talk will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, both at the Land Trust Building and online, via Zoom.

Finally, “History Worth Hearing,” a show hosted by local radio personality Chris Austin, will feature an interview with Brown about the restoration and history of the ship. “History Worth Hearing” is aired on the first and second Fridays of the month, at 3:00 pm, on Voice of Vashon KVSH radio and streamed online at voiceofvashon.org.

For more information about all of the Virginia V celebrations, to purchase tickets for the cruises, or to register for the talk, visit www.vashonheritagemuseum.org. If cost is an issue for the kids and family cruise, email admin@vashonheritage.org.