August 25 Ernestina Event

For immediate release Contact: Wendy Fox
August 17, 2007 617-626-1453

Day-long Festivities to Honor Schooner Ernestina
Celebrating 25th anniversary of Cape Verde’s gift to the U.S./Commonwealth

NEW BEDFORD – The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Schooner Ernestina Commission, and the Friends of Ernestina are planning to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the gifting of the historic schooner by the Republic of Cape Verde to the United States. Festivities will take place at the New Bedford State Pier on Saturday, August 25, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and will include a commemorative ceremony at noon, dockside activities for all ages, multi-cultural music and food, ship tours, and more.

The 113-year-old ship, a National Historic Landmark and official vessel of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, made the transatlantic voyage from Cape Verde to Massachusetts from July 15 to August 24, 1982. Members of the 13-person crew who made the historic trip are expected to attend the ceremony.

“This voyage was the culmination of a broad coalition-building and fund-raising effort by the Friends of Ernestina,” said Laura Pires-Hester, who chaired the Friends of Ernestina committee in 1976 and now serves as a member of the Schooner Ernestina Commission. “This vessel still represents the indomitable spirit that has crossed boundaries, bringing people and nations closer to each other. Ernestina still has the power to attract and reach out.”

To begin directing the schooner’s future, and help raise the approximately $2.5 million needed for repairs to the ship, DCR has hired Navy Lieutenant Paul J. Brawley as executive director of the Schooner Ernestina. Brawley, 52, who brings to his new job many years’ experience in media relations, marketing, and fund raising, assumed his duties July 3.

“I am very excited about my appointment,” Brawley said. “Next to the USS Constitution, Ernestina is perhaps the most historically significant wooden sailing ship in our country. As executive director of the official vessel of the Commonwealth, my immediate, overarching goals are to raise the funds necessary from a variety of sources to restore the ship and provide for its long-term future.

The two-masted schooner was constructed and launched at the James & Tarr Yard in Essex, Mass., in 1894, named Effie M. Morrissey, and served as a Grand Banks fishing schooner. Always an active, working ship, the Fredonia-style schooner’s sleek black hull cut through the waves on many runs from Gloucester, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.

Famed Newfoundland Arctic explorer Captain Bob Bartlett purchased and refitted the ship in 1924, and began its second life as an Arctic exploration vessel for scientists and students from institutions as diverse as the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic magazine. The schooner made 20 voyages to the Artic and came to within 578 miles of the North Pole. No other sailing vessel has ever gotten that close.

After serving as a survey and supply ship for the U.S. Navy during World War II, the schooner entered a new career following Bartlett’s death in 1946. In December 1948, it was sold to Captain Henrique Mendes of Cape Verde, who renamed the vessel Ernestina, after his daughter. He sailed Ernestina as a packet, carrying immigrants and goods between the Cape Verde Islands and the United States until 1965. Ernestina was the last sailing ship, in regular service, to carry immigrants across the Atlantic to the United States.

In 1977, Cape Verde decided to give Ernestina to the people of the United States, and after a restoration, initiated by the Cape Verdean government and Friends of the Ernestina/Morrissey, the ship was presented to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and New Bedford became its new home port. At the presentation ceremonies, a representative from Cape Verde called Ernestina "an unmistakable catalyst in fostering a very special bond of friendship and human assistance from one country to another.”

Brawley is now leading the efforts to raise $2.5 million to restore and repair Ernestina by the summer of 2009 so the ship can participate in Sail Boston and the Celebrating Bartlett festivities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“She has introduced tens of thousands of people to her own boundary-crossing histories, but also to the richness of our maritime and cultural history,” said Laura Pires-Hester. “We must get Ernestina sailing again!”

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