Local History with a Waterfront View

Learn about Bellingham’s history from the waterfront perspective.

By Christina Claassen and Colton Redtfeldt

This summer hundreds of people will be boarding the 100-foot Victoria Star boat for the Whatcom Museum’s 35th annual History Sunset Cruises. Everyone aboard will learn about the history of Bellingham from a waterfront perspective, courtesy of two local historians who weave stories and serve as hosts extraordinaire—Doug Starcher and Brian Griffin.

During the cruises, participants get great close-up views of parks, businesses, industry, and neighborhoods from Bellingham Bay. Starcher and Griffin will tie their knowledge of local history with up-to-date facts about bay side activities. Their narrative of history, trivia, and current events makes cruise guests feel they are becoming experts on their community, and gives new understanding of the area to both locals and visitors.

Griffin who is an active participant and supporter of local art and history, took a moment to sit down and share about his time volunteering for the Museum, including the History Cruises, which he has hosted for the past ten years. Griffin said he enjoys telling people about local history while cruising on a boat because of the visual nature of the experience.

“I am able to point to things as I tell the story. It’s easier to tell a story when it’s in front of you,” Griffin said.

Local historian Brian Griffin narrates a History Sunset Cruise.

Griffin has authored multiple books highlighting local history including My Darling Anna, Treasures from the Trunk: The J.J. Donovan Story, Boulevard Park, and Fairhaven: A History, which are available at the Museum Store. After staff read his books, the Museum invited Griffin to narrate the history cruises. In addition to volunteering his time to host the cruises, Griffin is also a volunteer docent at the Museum, leading tours of Old City Hall, and the People of the Sea and Cedar exhibit at the Lightcatcher building. He also served as a member on the Whatcom Museum Foundation Board of Trustees.

In 2013 Griffin helped curate an 11-month-long museum exhibition about local businessman J.J. Donovan called Treasures from the Trunk: The J.J. Donovan Story. He later went on to write a book about Donovan, inspired by the exhibit.

Griffin continues to write, with his most recent book, Beulah: A Crow’s Story, about a childhood adventure with his sister involving a baby crow they rescued and raised. The Museum appreciates Griffin’s storytelling and looks forward to another year of history cruises together.

About the History Sunset Cruises
Cruises take place Tuesdays, July 10 through September 11. San Juan Cruises’ Victoria Star leaves from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Fairhaven, 355 Harris Ave. The boat has indoor and outdoor seating on two levels, an on-board snack bar, and a full bar with a selection of Northwest beers, wines, and cocktails. Restrooms are available on board. Guests are welcome to bring dinner, snacks, and beverages (non-alcoholic) for a picnic-style dinner while cruising. Each sailing boards at 6:15pm, with a prompt 6:30pm sailing, and an 8:30pm return.

Tickets are $35 general; $30 for Museum members; $28 per person for groups of 8 or more people (registered together). Purchase through BrownPaperTickets, https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3380820, by calling 800/838.3006 ext. 1, or in-person at the Museum Store located at 250 Flora St. Bellingham, WA 98225. Proceeds benefit Whatcom Museum exhibitions and educational programs. For more information about the history cruises visit www.whatcommuseum.org/history-sunset-cruise.

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