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March Update

Dear shipmates,

As many of you may be aware, Ernestina/ex-Effie M. Morrissey has not set her sails since 2004. I began my tenure as Executive Director last July and have been very impressed with the level of support and encouragement to see to it that this venerable historic vessel will sail once again. Our volunteers (hundreds of them) continue to play an invaluable role and we are certainly grateful to them for their enthusiastic and unwavering support. We are also fortunate to have an enthusiastic and talented Schooner Ernestina Commission that is providing solid direction and leadership.

The Goal
Raise $3.5 million to rehabilitate and equip Ernestina in order for her to be certified by the U.S. Coast Guard by the spring of 2009 so she can participate that summer in Sail Boston and Celebrating Bartlett in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the 25th Annual Gloucester Schooner Festival, and the Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford.

Why Ernestina’s restoration is important
Next to USS Constitution, Ernestina is perhaps the most significant surviving sailing vessel in our nation’s maritime history. Ernestina/ex-Effie M. Morrissey is not a replica. This 114-year-old Essex, MA built vessel is a National Historic Landmark and is the official vessel of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She proudly embodies the rich maritime heritage not only of Massachusetts but indeed the entire United States.

She has served as a successful Grand Banks Gloucester fishing schooner; as an Arctic exploration vessel coming to within 578 miles of the North Pole—the farthest north that any sailing vessel has ever reached; as a U.S. Naval vessel in World War II; as a Cape Verde packet ship—the last sailing vessel in regular service to bring immigrants to this country; and most recently as a sail training education vessel.

Ernestina is the oldest surviving Grand Banks fishing schooner, and is one of two surviving 19th century Essex-built Gloucester Fredonia-style fishing schooners. Ernestina is also one of only two sailing Arctic exploration vessels left afloat in the U.S.

Fundraising – we’re going in the right direction
We were notified last December by the National Park Service that we are the recipient of a $500,000 Save America’s Treasures federal matching grant. In February, we received word that Ernestina was receiving two grants totaling $290,000 in state matching funds by the Office of Public Private Partnerships managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Of the total, $250,000 is for Ernestina’s rehabilitation and the balance will be used for the Historic American Building Survey and Engineering Record (HABS/HAER) Programs to document the written history and description of the vessel as well as measured and interpretive drawings. The large format photography aspect of the project ($5,000) was completed last summer and underwritten by the New Bedford Whaling Historical National Park. We have another $20,000 in federal matching funds for this project that will be completed by September.

We have also received word that the Republic of Cape Verde’s Minister of Culture is also launching an effort to raise substantial funds to help rehabilitate the vessel so she may come to the island nation to celebrate the discovery of Cape Verde 550 years ago and the nation’s 35th anniversary of independence. Last August, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Cape Verde’s gifting the vessel to the United States. It never ceases to amaze and please me how passionate people are about this vessel!

Into a yard this spring
A proposal for bids to carry out the rehabilitation of the stem, foredeck and planking above the waterline along the foredeck will be posted soon and we anticipate a haul out of Ernestina In May. We will also be cover the main deck with a temporary covering to seal it and keep the fresh water from going below and damaging work previously done to her futtocks and planking.

The work will comply with USCG standards and the Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines for the Preservation of Historic Vessels. A Massachusetts State Historic Preservation Officer will review the work to insure compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and that the work has had, or will have, no adverse effect on the vessel.

We’re not done yet – here’s where you come in
The news here is very exciting and positive but we still have more work to do to replace the main deck, transom, planking above the waterline, equipage, etc. in order to be operational again as a sail training vessel and floating classroom.

Please join us as we chart a new course —Ernestina will sail once again with your help. Tax- deductible contributions can be made to: Schooner Ernestina Commission, Box 2010, New Bedford, MA 02741-2010. For more information, please feel free to contact me at or by calling 508-992-4900.

Let’s work together to keep Ernestina sailing!

Fair Winds and Following Seas,

Paul J. Brawley
Executive Director
Schooner Ernestina