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Brownsville’s Lavengro gives passengers, crew sense of adventure

A group of North Kitsap residents sailed around Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay for three hours Sunday. - Christopher Carter/staff photo
A group of North Kitsap residents sailed around Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay for three hours Sunday.
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

As the boat bobbed under threatening skies, Arman Dahl, suited up in a yellow raincoat, considered himself lucky.

Having recently relocated from Nottingham, England to Bainbridge Island, Dahl was determined to get back on the water. He just didn’t think it would be on a historic vessel.

“It’s really something special to take a piece of history and cherish it,” he said Sunday.

Dahl was part of a small group of passengers aboard the Lavengro, a 1920s schooner based out of the Port of Brownsville.

It’s the only one of its kind left, and it now sails under a Kitsap County flag.

The Lavengro — meaning “master of words” in a Gypsy language — hosts dockside tours and free public sails. Operated through donations and grants and by a group of volunteers, its crew fears the floating piece of history will only last as long as people take care of it.

“All that’s left are pictures and old books, or a half model in a museum,” said the Lavengro’s captain, Dave Haslam.

Haslam was previously the captain of the Grays Harbor-based tall ship, the Lady Washington, for nine months.

The Lavengro was built in 1926 in the Gulf Coast as a yacht modeled after shrimping and oyster schooners. The ship was passed through several families before making its home in the Puget Sound. It was donated to the Seattle-based Northwest Schooner Society in 2003 and sailed into Brownsville in February. The following March it was designated the official tall ship of Kitsap County.

The ship is the last remaining boat of its class, Haslam said, only a handful of replicas exist now. The only other remaining original was claimed by Hurricane Katrina.

In January, the Lavengro underwent a major refit that included refastening planks and removing sheathing installed during time in Hawaii.

For those aboard the vessel Sunday, the experience was adventurous.

For Dahl, sailing around Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay, holding his bundled 7-year-old son James Dahl to keep him from the elements, was nothing short of a flashback.

He said it made him think about time spent on his father’s boat back in England.

“I remember getting cold and going under the deck and sleeping by the engine,” he said.

Dave and Judy Davis of Kingston were looking for excitement, and something out of the ordinary. They, too, found the Lavengro.

“We are always taking adventures,” said Judy Davis, 67. “We thought this one would be unique.”

Even for the crew, all volunteers, the boat is a journey away from life’s troubles.

“It’s a pretty good way to spend life when not in the lab,” said Dana Raugi, 25, of Edmonds.

Raugi, the ship’s volunteer coordinator, is also an HIV research scientist and graduate student at the University of Washington.

Her interest in schooners was piqued while serving as a volunteer on a Bellingham-based boat, the Zodiac.

A spot on the crew of the Lavengro opened up and it was love at first sight for Raugi.

“I fell in love with her, hook, line and sinker,” she said.

Haslam said he suspects more people would share that reaction if they took the time to experience the boat, and the history lesson that comes with it.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s that important in the whole scheme of things,” he said. “It can be a life changing experience. It’s like taking a kid out flying.”

In addition to free public sails, the ship hosts students from elementary schools and the Washington Youth Academy who explore the ship and use underwater video cameras to learn about marine life. However, because of the construction and refit, the Lavengro and its crew does not have a set schedule for events and cruises yet.

“As far as getting it rocking and rolling, we haven’t had a chance yet,” Haslam said.

The Lavengro will be in Seattle July 3 and 4 at the Center for Wooden Boats. Another public sail is scheduled for July and will leave from Brownsville.

More information can be found on the ship’s website, www.schoonerlavengro.com, and by calling (206) 577-7233.

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