Ernestina Update: October/November 2008

Dear Friend of Ernestina,

Despite the downturn in the economy and reduction in the state agency budgets across the board (including our operating budget), the capital repairs to Ernestina are not impacted in any way. In fact, I am pleased to report that we have received an additional $250,000 from DCR’s Partnerships Matching Funds Program that will enable us to complete the entire foredeck, main beam at the break in the deck, and one frame into the main deck. The work is expected to be completed by the end of April. The total value of the contract is $1.1 million.

Additionally, we have also put in a request for matching funds to purchase two battery chargers, a trash pump, life raft, alarms, wiring and circuit breaker panels. We should hear by mid November if this request will be funded.

The work is following the standards set forth in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standard’s for Historic Vessel Preservation Projects and the U.S. Coast Guard. Harold Burnham, an 11th generation Essex Master Shipwright, continues to serve as my liaison with the shipyard and has been doing outstanding work in overseeing the ship’s rehabilitation. He is also developing repair and preservation standards to be used in future work to be done to the ship.

If you would like to visit Ernestina in the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, it is best to go on a Wednesday or Thursday when Harold is there. The yard operates Monday through Thursday.

To view photos of the ship in Boothbay, please visit our websites at or

The majority of the sails will be sent out to be repaired and cleaned over the winter months.

We still have a great deal of work to do

This news is very positive, but much work still needs to be done to raise the funds necessary to rehabilitate the main deck, transom, stern post, and hire a crew. In addition, upgrades need to be made to the ship’s mechanical and electrical systems, rigging, and sails. The total cost of Ernestina’s rehabilitation, outfitting, and manning, including the present work, is estimated to be under $3.5 million.

We want to sail by the Summer 2009

Although the ship has not sailed since 2004, we remain committed to accomplish the necessary work in order to obtain U.S. Coast Guard certification to sail this summer. At the very least I anticipate retaining our Attraction Vessel Certificate of Inspection (COI) meaning we can sail with a crew and six passengers and conduct dockside educational programming in various ports. Once the remaining work aft is completed, I would anticipate receiving certification as a Sailing School Vessel (SSV) and eventually dual certification as a passenger vessel in order to take advantage of the ship earning more of her way. As an SSV, we would be able to reestablish our many fine educational and cultural programs afloat for people of all ages.

I would anticipate participating in Sail Massachusetts, the 15th Annual Schooner Festival, and the Working Waterfront to name a few. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and the material condition of the ship, we will not be able to participate in Celebrating Bartlett in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Next Commission Meeting

Friday, November 7 from 1-3 p.m. at the National Park Visitors Center in New Bedford.

Why Ernestina’s restoration is important

Schooner Ernestina Metrics

Designer: George M. McClain Sparred Length Overall: 156 feet

Builder: James & Tarr Yard, Essex, MA Main Mast: 76 feet; 20 in diameter

Launched: February 1, 1894 Fore Mast: 74 feet; 21 in diameter

Tonnage: 98 gross tons Main Boom: 68 feet

Hull Length Overall: 114 feet Sail Area: 8,323 square feet

Length on Deck: 106 feet Engine: 6-cylander, 350 hp Cummins

Length at Waterline: 93 feet marine diesel

Breadth: 24 feet, 5 inches Homeport: New Bedford, MA

The 114-year-old Ernestina ex-Effie M. Morrissey is a National Historic Landmark, is the official vessel of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is part of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.
She has served as a successful Grand Banks fishing schooner; as an Arctic exploration vessel that came to within 578 miles of the North Pole—a record that still stands for a sailing vessel; 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 served as a sail training education vessel for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
In 1982, the Republic of Cape Verde, with the financial support of the Friends of Ernestina/Morrissey, restored Ernestina and presented her as a gift to the people of the United States and ultimately to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, returning her to the land of her construction.
Ernestina is the oldest surviving Grand Banks fishing schooner, one of two surviving 19th century Essex-built Gloucester fishing schooners, and one of two remaining examples of the Fredonia-style schooners, and the only one of that type that can still be operational. She is also one of only two sailing Arctic exploration vessels left afloat in the United States.
Next to USS Constitution, Ernestina is perhaps the most significant surviving sailing vessel in our nation’s maritime history.

Now is the Time to make a Generous Contribution!

Please join us as we chart a new course and create another new chapter in the history of this venerable vessel. Make out your tax-deductible contribution to the Schooner Ernestina Commission Trust and mail it to Box 2010, New Bedford, MA 02741-2010.

For more information or if you have any questions, 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
New Bedford State Pier
PO Box 2010
New Bedford, MA 02741-2010
508-992-4900 (office)
508-272-2757 (cell)
508-984-7719 (fax)

P.S. Please forward to all your friends