There’s something endearingly Seattle about a steamboat cruise for furries.

Whistle N Wag is the first furry-centric voyage and fundraiser for the SS Virginia V, the last surviving vessel in the Mosquito Fleet and the only wooden-hulled, propeller-driven passenger steamship in the United States. Virginia V Senior Docent and historian Ed Brown said the ship is a living museum exhibit available for parties and events of all descriptions.

“Besides the fact that some of the attendees will be wearing animal costumes, it’s really not that different from anything else the ship does,” Brown said.

The idea came from Brown who, in addition to working for the Virginia V, is an enthusiastic member of the furry community. They have steered the ship dressed as a magpie and attended the Virginia V Christmas Party as their fursona Jul Reindeer. Their proposal for a furry-themed fundraiser did not surprise their employer. Brown said they wanted to bring their community aboard the ship and drew inspiration from the success of furry cruises elsewhere. 

Anthrocon, the largest furry convention in the world, rents riverboats for sightseeing trips down the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh. Since 2005, furries have held a public fursuit event called Furry Cruise aboard various commercial cruise ships to destinations across the world. (According to its website, a Furry Cruise Coordinator is working directly with Norwegian Cruise Lines for this year’s October cruise.) In Seattle, a known nexus of furry culture in the US, the event planning company FetchNW throws 21+ boat parties for the furry and pup play communities. 

The Virginia V cruise is a two-and-a-half-hour trip from Lake Union to Lake Washington this Saturday, with a bar, dance floor, a sightseeing deck for passengers, and a raffle with prizes including a partial fursuit. All the proceeds from the event will go toward the Steamer Virginia V Foundation, the nonprofit that owns and maintains the 102-year-old ship. A ticket to ride is $50, but attendees can pay extra for earlier boarding and Whistle N Wag merch like a commemorative T-shirt and pin.

Dolph, who has been a member of the furry community since the late 1990s, is attending Whistle N Wag this weekend to support his friend Brown and the good cause.

“Getting the community together, getting people together, sharing experiences on a ship like the Virginia V is helping preserve the history of the boat,” he said.

The Virginia V and other vessels in the Mosquito Fleet connected Northwest island communities with the mainland, couriering people, food, livestock, and other goods around the Puget Sound. The ships themselves were expected to last only 20 to 30 years. Rebuilding them from scratch cost less than maintaining a wooden hull, and the practical solution was to drive the ships onto a beach and light them on fire. The Virginia V avoided this fate because its owners fell into debt. Brown said the boat was seized and sold it at auction, saving it from the scrapyard in World War II. The boat traded hands over the years before a then newly-formed Steamer Virginia V foundation acquired it for $127,000 in 1980. 

The nonprofit spent $6.5 million over six years to restore the ship, which has run continuously since 2002 and remains docked behind the Center for Wooden Boats in South Lake Union. Maintaining the boat, recognized as a National Historic Landmark vessel, costs an additional $250,000 every two years. Fundraisers like Whistle N Wag are important to the ship’s preservation.

The event is limited to 125 people and tickets can be purchased on the Whistle N Wag website.