Zipping down Interstate 5 through Everett, you’d have no concept of how many incredible ties our old city of Everett has to great events and people around the globe. Now for example, if you were asked what the equator has to do with Everett no doubt you’d most likely be left grasping the air for an answer– that is unless you have a propensity to explore the back streets and neighborhoods of Everett. And what would old Everett have to do with the horror imposed by the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? How about Caribbean Pirates? Any tie to old Everett?
It turns out if you’ve ever taken a trip down to the public boat launch (where the little summer ferry lumbers back and forth to Jetty Island) — you might know what the Equator as to do with our community. For that is the location of a long ongoing restoration project of an old ship hull named nothing less than (you guessed it) “The Equator”. There you will find a large roofed structure protecting this grand old sailing ship from the rain and the elements. This roofed structure proudly supports a sign with the name of the ship as well as some very interesting information regarding it.
The Equator was built 124 years ago in California by a very renowned ship builder named Mathew Turner. When it was first placed in the seawater back in 1888 it served the owners well as a south sea trader and also as a mail boat. Gazing at the hull, one can hardly imagine that the ship sailed the vast seas of the South Pacific.
In fact it was chartered by the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson. You know Stevenson for his famed works like Treasure Island, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Kidnapped. Well it humbles one to think that the famous author stood, slept, and wrote upon the decks of this old ship The Equator — and from those decks he wrote another book called THE WRECKERS. When he conceived and wrote those words for that literary work he was sailing from Honolulu, Hawaii (then called the Sandwich Islands) on his way to the Gilbert Islands.
There are few touchstones like this still preserved where you can gaze upon a vessel that was a temporary home for a man who changed his world with his books and literature. In fact the horror movies that terrified and entertained several generations got their first start with the terrifying spectacle of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; and where would Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean be without the famous literary platform of Treasure Island. When you look at the Equator, remember that it was ship the was home to one of the greatest writers of the day.
But that is not the end of the story of the Equator, it’s more like the beginning. In 1893 this 76 ton sailing ship was fitted with a steam engine to keep up with the technology leap of the day, and then so served as part of whaling fleet. We can only imagine the turmoil and tumult that this old schooner could convey of those days if only she could talk. In 1915 she was converted to diesel power and served as a tug, hauling and towing other vessels.
She towed many vessels of the day away from danger, but was caught herself in a sandbar on the Quilleute River back in 1923. Her hull filled with water, but later the equator was pumped out, re-floated and hulled down to Seattle to be repaired and fitted with new equipment. Then the grand old ship did consistent and good duty for the Puget Sound Tug and Barge Company until she was retired in 1956. She was stripped of her machinery and her hull was left abandoned on the edge of Jetty Island. It just wasn’t a fitting end to the grand old vessel.
For good reason, the Equator is listed on the state and national historic registers. She has been preserved compliments of the The Equator Foundation which was established to reconstruct the schooner, establish an interpretive center and to convey the important story that this ship can tell to all that will listen.
An informational sign at the site lists nearly 50 business and governmental donors that have agreed to give this old hull a dignified home. Now when someone asks you what the Equator and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde have to do with Everett. You can tell them, “A lot more than you’d ever imagine”.
Three cheers for the Everett Equator Foundation for the foresight into preserving this old ship hull.