Northwest Seaport vessel manager Saxon Bisbee pops his head out of the Arthur Foss wooden tugboat on Tuesday, July 9.
Northwest Seaport vessel manager Saxon Bisbee pops his head out of the Arthur Foss wooden tugboat on Tuesday, July 9.

Moored to Lake Union’s Historic Ships Wharf, on a slightly less-than-fair-weather day, the Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center hosted the first Tugboat Happy Hour of the year on Tuesday, July 9.

The Tugboat Happy Hour is a fundraiser for Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center, held aboard the 130-year-old Arthur Foss, a tugboat that saw the Klondike Gold Rush, was featured in the movie “Tugboat Annie,” sailed in the Pacific Ocean theater during World War II and towed timber in Puget Sound. Tugboat Happy Hour takes place 5:30-9 p.m. every Tuesday, now through Aug. 27.

Guests dined on salmon, chips and dip, wine and beer, and chocolate cake during the July 9 outing. The entertainment was Duck Dodge sailboat racing, a Seattle tradition for 45 years.

Duck Dodge racing begins at 7 p.m. every Tuesday through Sept. 28. The races are staggered and separated by boat speed. Fast boats start at 7 p.m., half-fast boats at 7:05 p.m., cruising and slower boats at 7:10 p.m., and finally dinghy class at 7:15 p.m. For some guests aboard Arthur Foss on July 9, who thought the wind was unfavorable, it was unclear when racing was underway. More at

The Northwest Seaport owns and maintains the Arthur Foss, and hosts educational events aboard its “museum ships.” The nonprofit also own Lightship No. 83, Swiftsure, which has a newly refurbished deck; it was built in New Jersey in 1904. Northwest Seaport also boasts the Tordenskjold, a halibut schooner built in Ballard 1911. The ships are located at Lake Union Park, 860 Terry Ave. N., behind the Museum of History and Industry. 

The Arthur Foss is also home to nautical archeologist and Northwest Seaport vessel manager Saxon Bisbee, who began working on restoration projects for the nonprofit in 2013, including the Swiftsure and Arthur Foss.

“I was brought on then as a project archeologist,” Bisbee said. “During the course of that project, I was living on board this boat, and I was just floored. As a student of ships and shipping and naval history my whole life, I was floored that things like this still exist.”

Bisbee said revenue generation is critical for maintaining “museum ships,” but it’s difficult because they can’t be used commercially, so they don’t “pay for themselves.” Events like Tugboat Happy Hour help raise funds, on top of government grants.

“The higher level the grant is, the more red tape there is. So, administering grants is also a lot of work,” Bisbee said. “But that’s where most of the money that supports this comes from.”

Northwest Seaport board member Diane Spaulding is helping host Tugboat Happy Hour.

“To keep some of our history tangible is extremely important,” she said.

She pointed out the ship’s material, which is about a million board feet of old growth Douglas fir, according to Bisbee. Douglas fir is not readily available to build or restore ships because forests lack the amount of trees needed.

Northwest Seaport secretary Colleen Browne said that when Seattleites can feel more connected to the city when they understand Seattle’s history. She never raced in the Duck Dodge, though she did have a sailboat.

“It’s insane. This race is great but, in general, captains who are trying to race completely lose their mind,” Browne said. “They are like, ‘Who is this person I’ve known all my life?’ So, I really try to stay away from the racing part of sail boating. But I like sail boating.”