Drayton Harbor Days, an annual free festival that celebrates the area's maritime history, offers two days this weekend that are awash with vintage boats and a variety of events, races, games, arts and crafts, food vendors, live music and a free outdoor movie.
Highlighting the weekend are the tall ships Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain, dozens of old-fashioned steamboats and the popular Prestigious George Raft Race. Also featured are rides on the historic Plover foot ferry and a pirate costume contest.
"That makes it a whole lot of fun," said Debbie Harger with the city of Blaine, which is one of the festival's annual sponsors. "You've got all kinds of people walking around in pirate costumes."
Events are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, and Sunday, Aug. 3, at the harbor, accessible via exit 236 for downtown Blaine, which is the last exit before Canada on northbound Interstate 5. Go west toward the water, through the roundabout and you'll be at the harbor, where there's free parking. There's also a Run to the Border 5K event at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and a pancake breakfast from 8-11 a.m. Saturday at the Blaine Senior Center, 763 G St. A showing of the "Lego Movie" is free at 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, at Marine Park near the harbor.
Judging for the pirate contest is at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Blaine Harbor Boating Center, 235 Marine Drive. Most of the weekend events revolve around that site.
Rides from Blaine Harbor to Semiahmoo Spit and back on the restored 1944 Plover foot ferry are from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $5 for adults, $1 for teens and free for those younger than 12.
Both the state's official tall ships - Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain - are making their only Whatcom County port visit this summer during the festival. Lady Washington is a 112-foot twin-masted brig, a replica of a sailing vessel from the late 1700s and early 1800s that has been featured in several movies including "Pirates of the Caribbean." The Hawaiian Chieftain is a 103-foot topsail ketch that's representative of the speedy merchant packet ships of the mid-1800s.
Both ships are available for $3 per person dockside tours from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31; noon to 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2; and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3. They offer $43 sailing adventures from 6-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1; 6-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2; and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, Aug.3. Two $43-$63 "battle sails" are from 2-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 2 and 3. Book passage on the ships at historicalseaport.org or by calling 360-532-8611 or 800-200-5239.
While the tall ships are sailing, festival visitors will be able to see them from the waterfront, where some 20 to 30 steamboats are scheduled to visit as part of the Northwest Steam Society's annual meeting, said Richard Sturgill, a longtime member of the festival's planning committee.
"Each one is as unique as somebody's imagination," Sturgill said of the boats, which variously use diesel, propane and wood to fire their steam engines. He said visitors will engine the boats' "mystical charm" and rhythmic engine sounds.
Sturgill said visitors also will enjoy a display of model boats fashioned from paper by local artist Mike Dodd, whose models represent fishing boats that have moored in Blaine Harbor. "It's folk art," Sturgill said, "and they are terrific."
Possibly the most anticipated event is the zany annual Prestigious George Raft Race at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, featuring sailors and would-be sailors on vessels of their own creation - many of them cobbled together from recycled materials such as Styrofoam and empty milk jugs, Sturgill said. It was started by a local resident who based it on a centuries-old race in his native Britain and gave it a tongue-in-cheek name, a play on the American film actor.
"The start of the race is hilarious," Sturgill said. "It's just a mad scramble."
It starts at the public boat launch and ends at the visitor dock. The best place to watch might be the end of the public pier, Harger said, although the start and finish lines are close enough it's possible to watch the start of the race and walk to the finish line before it's over.
"Watching them come in, that's the funnest part," Harger said. "Sometimes they don't make it, and that's fun too."
Robert Mittendorf is a Herald copy editor, writer and page designer. Suggest your ideas for local family-friendly events, hikes or day trips at 360-756-2805 or at email@example.com.