After months of waiting, Massachusetts tall ship arrives

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 3:45pm

    When the Ernestina-Morrissey was ready to set sail (or to be correct: ready to be tugged up the coast) for the first time, there was nary a snowbank in Boothbay Harbor.

    That was early January.

    Three months and more than 100 inches of snow later, the Ernestina-Morrissey has arrived in Boothbay Harbor.

    After months of waiting — for the ice to come out of New Beford's harbor, for the Cape Cod Canal to lift its travel restrictions, for Boothbay Harbor to thaw-out — the conditions couldn't have been better, Shipyard General Manager Eric Graves said on Tuesday, April 14.

    “They were the two best days out of one hundred,” he said of Sunday, April 12 (when the ship set off) and Monday, April 13 (when it arrived in Boothbay Harbor). “It was flat (water) almost the entire way up here.”

    For Graves, the trip south to New Bedford, the Ernestina-Morrissey's home port, finally proved fruitful after months of attempts to bring the ship north.

    “We've been very prepared. I've made four or five trips down there in the past three months just getting prepared. But with the ice issues there was no way we could ever (make the trip).”

    When the ship left Sunday morning with Graves, Capt. David Thompson, the shipyard's Larry Colcord, Josh Navone and Mass. State Rep. Harold Burnham, it carried several back-up pumps and generators in case conditions turned ugly. But, while New Bedford's Mitchell Towing & Salvage's tug Jaguar powered the ship up the New England coast, none of the pumps had to be turned on, Graves said.

    “It leaked a little bit, but it was so calm we averaged six-and-a-half knots,” he said. “Some of the guys took off their shirts when we went through the canal. We did see some whitecaps, but it was really calm for the most part.”

    When it arrived in Boothbay Harbor, it had completed a 25-hour trip more than three months in the making.

    The ship was originally scheduled to be pulled along by the tug Jaguar out of New Bedford in early January. Then, due to wintry conditions, the date was moved to mid-January. Then, because of the unrelenting winter, the date was moved to April.

    Once Jaguar left the Harbor on Sunday, it was hit with rough seas and high winds but was able to return, which showed how small the window was, Graves said.

    The Ernestina-Morrissey's arrival in the Harbor is a return trip; the tall ship underwent repairs in 2008-09.

    This new $6 million restoration project, which is the largest in the shipyard's history, is expected to last several years, as the shipyard crew overhauls the boat.

    Graves said the shipyard has a plan of attack for how it is going to approach the project.

    “It's basically a total rebuild expect for the sections we did last time,” he said. “We'll be hauling her out in the next couple of weeks and setting up a steel staging area.”

    The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation awarded the shipyard the contract in November.