I spied this tall ship at Pier 66 on my way home from work yesterday. It’s the kind of thing that makes you do a double take, maybe look for a pirate in the crow’s nest or doubloons on the sidewalk. Turns out it’s the Pallada, a 354-foot, three-masted frigate out of Russia on a goodwill tour of the Pacific: Alaska, Victoria B.C., and Seattle (through Friday) before heading to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Japan (according to reports from Seattle PI and West Seattle Blog). Cadets will give guided tours of the 22-year-old vessel and its on-board exhibit on the 50th anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s space flight. They’re also celebrating the 270th anniversary of ‘the discovery of Russian America by Russian seafarers.’ Wonder what the good people of Sitka thought of that.

For more info on tours of the ship, visit the West Seattle blog. There’s talk of this being the world’s fastest sailing ship, though I couldn’t confirm that on the Guinness World Records site. Russian reports have it reaching 18 knots, but its marine traffic report puts it at 9.4 knots max. Regardless, it’s a badass boat and I’m going to go tour it now. Back later with an update.

UPDATE 3:30pm. The ship is open to the public until 4pm today and from 10:30 to 3 Friday. You just walk on for free and nose around as you like; and though there’s no guided tour, a very friendly crew member has mastered the word "Welcome" as you board. Some kind of Russian anthem is piped over the loudspeakers, which lends a bit of gravitas to the 18-year-old cadets posing for pictures with pretty ladies under the bronze bust of Yuri Gagarin. Oh, there’s a bust — two busts. Check the slideshow. As you stroll up and down the deck, browsing the timelines on Russia’s colonization of Alaska and space travel, don’t forget to look up. The cadets make a show of scampering up to the crow’s nest and back down again, without a harness, as you fumble for your camera.

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