First Commission Meeting on March 29th - limited report
The Commission had its first meeting at the National Park Visitors Center. It was a meeting that went along about as I expected, people trying to get to know each other and getting a fair amount of information that needs to be digested.
The moderator kept things moving and there were a few comments from the public.
It was pointed out that Ernestina could use a total restoration that may cost close to $2 million. It was also noted that if some work was done, it could have a limited sailing schedule. Certificates of Inspection (COI) have many levels. The boat should be certified as a "Attraction Vessel" very soon, this would enable it to have visitors and do programs at the dock. Other levels of a COI could allow it to sail along near the coast, going to places like Gloucester and Boston and Providence. This could be done with a partial restoration. A better COI would enable it to go to places that are somewhat offshore, like Newfoundland, and of course a full ocean certification would allow it to go anyplace (like Cape Verde). The levels of licensing that the crew would need would get harder for the longer routes, and more safety equipment would be needed.
The goal should be to get the boat so it can sail anyplace.
It was pointed out that there is an offer to financially support Ernestina if it went to Brigus, Newfoundland for a celebration in 2009, and they would like an answer soon. It was the only definite offer of financial support that was mentioned.
The DCR pointed out that the revenues from the boat only covered half of the expenses, but that is true for most of the facilities that the DCR runs. If a park doesn't "pay for itself" they don't close it down and let people look at it from a distance. That is about what has happened to Ernestina lately. She was meant to sail - like a park is meant to be walked in.
Some other suggestions included to work with partners such as UMASS, the City of New Bedford, the Whaling Museum, the Tourism office, and the Education department. All could help support Ernestina financially and have some use of the ship based on this support. One suggestion was to extend the season to most of the year.
Another suggestion was to make a real business plan, and it was agreed to work on one. It is hard to ask people for donations if there isn't a plan. People like reasons to donate.
Another suggestion was to have advisory committees for various things, like boat construction and repairs, programming, setting up partners, etc.
The due date for some grants is coming up very soon, and some will be applied for.
There have been executive directors interviewed, and the commission may appoint one soon. Ernestina needs a executive director working full time for the boat. This will primarily be a fundraising position. She also needs a captain whose primary concern is the boat, it's repairs and it's proper maintenance.
The next commission meeting will be 4:30 April 12th, just before the cocktail party/fundraiser.