Boothbay Harbor Shipyard has been restoring a historic, 156-foot schooner for the past 13 months. The Ernestina-Morrissey came to Boothbay Harbor in April 2015 for a $6 million-plus restoration project.
The Ernestina-Morrissey is the official tall ship of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In 1894, the schooner began its existence as the Morrissey, a fishing boat off the Grand Banks near Gloucester, Massachusetts. The schooner’s historic past also includes sailing within 578 miles of the North Pole in 1940 and transporting immigrants from Cape Verde to the U.S. in 1980.
Since March 2016, five Boothbay Harbor Shipyard shipwrights have been restoring the historic vessel under the direction of private contractor David Short, the restoration’s project manager. Short is leading Phase One of the three-part effort. Phase One includes re-framing and replacing the hull and installing the longitudinal structure.
“We identified what can and can’t be saved,” Short said. “We removed all the bad wood and replaced with new and developed patterns for about 40 frames installed within the hull.”
Short expects Phase One’s completion at the end of next year. Plans for the project’s other two phases haven’t been determined by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The shipyard has a contract with Massachusetts valued at $6,048,025 to complete Phase One in three years. Phases Two and Three depend upon Massachusetts finding funds to complete the project.
“We could begin Phase Two now, but all we are contracted for is Phase One,” Short said. “If the phases are stacked one after another I expect it would take another year (2019) beyond the hull restoration to complete everything.”
Phase Two would install the ship’s rigging and machinery, engines, and pumps. Phase Three is making the vessel livable by constructing bunks, a galley and ship’s interior.
Once the schooner is restored, it will be ready to sail for the first time since 2004. Short believes the restored schooner would be an excellent resource for maritime cadets to learn sailing skills. He thought Massachusetts Maritime Academy may use the Ernestina-Morrissey in similar fashion to how Maine Maritime Academy uses the Bowdoin. He said Massachusetts Maritime Academy is negotiating with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to use the vessel for cadet training.
“A ship like the Ernestina exposes seamen to many skills,” he said. “There is engineering, sail handling, and navigation. It is a full scope of seamanship in this type of vessel that sailors are exposed to.”
This not the first time Boothbay Harbor Shipyard has worked on the Ernestina-Morrissey. In 2008, the shipyard repaired the schooner’s bow and replaced the entire foredeck and exterior planking.