$6M ‘Ernestina-Morrissey’ restoration brings jobs, history to Boothbay Harbor

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 2:45pm

    A Massachusetts landmark is coming to Maine.

    Make that a Massachusetts sea legend.

    The schooner Ernestina-Morrissey will be coming to Boothbay Harbor by the end of the year as part of a $6,000,000 pact with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to restore the famed ship. The 156-foot schooner, which was originally launched in 1894, will undergo extensive repairs at the shipyard.

    Eric Graves, shipyard general manager said the Ernestina-Morrissey isn't just a big contract for the shipyard, but a big deal too.

    Not only is the $6,000,000 contract the largest the shipyard has handled since it received new ownership, but the new contract is a sign of an improving economy and a new chapter for the shipyard, Graves said.

    “It's definitely the biggest contract we've had in the last 10 years,” he said. “It's great for us, and for the town. This will be the biggest scale restoration we've done, and it feels pretty good to be able to work on it again.”

    Because of the scope of the work and the length of time needed for the restoration, the shipyard will add several new jobs.

    Lauren Feltch, assistant press secretary for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, said in an email that the ship has not been in sailing condition since 2004.

    “DCR received two bid submissions for the rehabilitation and repair of the ship,” she wrote. “After an extensive internal review of the proposals by both bidding parties, DCR selected Boothbay Harbor Shipyard to complete the work. (On Wednesday) DCR executed a contract with Boothbay Harbor Shipyard for the amount of $6,048,025 for the rehabilitation and repair of the ship.”

    The shipyard discovered that it had been awarded the contract a week earlier, after the bids had been submitted earlier in the fall, Graves said. The news of the contract was released Wednesday, Nov. 19.

    “We had the vessel here in 2008 or 2009 and we were really involved with the DCR even before that,” Graves said. “We've had a lot of experience with DCR and (Ernestina-Morrissey).”

    When the ship first came to Boothbay Harbor, the shipyard crew worked primarily above the waterline, including the bulkhead. For its second venture, the work will focus below the waterline, on the keel, frame and hull.

    “We're going right through where we left off,” Graves said. “Basically, we're starting at the bottom section of the bow and working back through the centerline, keel, frame and hull.

    “It's a three year contract, and we expect it to take (that much time).”

    Most of the new employees will be hired for that reason. Graves said the new work would be centered around big-time work needed above and below the waterline.

    Ernestina-Morrissey is currently berthed at the State Pier in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where it's in the water, but not yet in sailing condition, Feltch said.

    Graves said that the ship would be making its way north in December, albeit via a tow.

    Once it's at the shipyard, it will be put on full display.

    “We're going to try to have an information center set up, so people can learn a bit more about her,” Graves said. “It should be open for most of the time, and there will be opportunities for people to come in and get a better look.”

    Those who do get a better look will see one of the more storied tall ships in existence, Graves said. The Ernestina-Morrissey is not only the official tall ship of the state of Massachusetts, but it was the last tall ship to ferry immigrants to the United States, Graves said.

    The ship carried immigrants from Cape Verde to the U.S. in the 1980s, almost 100 years after it was first launched in 1894 from James & Tarr in Essex, Massachusetts.

    In between launching in Massachusetts and making its way to Boothbay Harbor, the ship has been through several other unlikely adventures, including its original post as a fishing schooner off the Grand Banks to an arctic adventure with Captain Robert Bartlett in 1940.