Old Bri­gus ship is now Na­tional Historic Land­mark in U.S.

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE -

At that time, the 30-year-old ship had no en­gines, and her wooden hull might have been con­sid­ered a lit­tle light for Arc­tic work, but Capt. Bob out­fit­ted her with an en­gine, and sheathed the hull in green­heart wood. He then spent the next 20 years run­ning her north – to Green­land, Ice­land, Ellesmere and Baf­fin Is­lands. It was a con­stant strug­gle to raise funds for those voy­ages, and to keep her ship­shape, and Capt. Bob was con­tin­u­ally work­ing for his ship.

After his death in 1946, the ship, re­named the Ernestina by her new owner, Capt. Hen­rique Men­des, started on the next part of her life – as a packet, car­ry­ing im­mi­grants and goods be­tween the Cape Verde Is­lands and the United States.

Cape Verdeans loved The Ernestina, which was fea­tured on one of their cur­rency bills. She was the last sail­ing ship, in reg­u­lar ser­vice, to carry im­mi­grants across the At­lantic to the United States, in the mid­dle years of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury.

Capt. Bob’s beloved Mor­ris­sey was long for­got­ten, un­til a yacht sailed into Cape Verde and one of the crew spot­ted her in port. He rec­og­nized her un­der her new name, and the ship from north­ern wa­ters was seen to have been re­born for dis­tin­guished ca­reer much farther south.

After Ernestina was re­tired the peo­ple of Cape Verde de­cided to turn her over as a gift to the Com­mon­wealth of Massachusetts, in recog­ni­tion of the role she played in their new lives in the United States.

Na­tional Historic Land­mark

The Ernestina is cur­rently the of­fi­cial ves­sel of Massachusetts and a Na­tional Historic Land­mark.

The Ernestina was the last sail­ing

ship, in reg­u­lar ser­vice, to carry im­mi­grants across the At­lantic Ocean to the United States, in the mid­dle

years of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury.

She is tied up on the wa­ter­front in the fa­mous whal­ing city of New Bed­ford, about an hour south of Bos­ton. At 118 years old she needs a num­ber of ren­o­va­tions to bring her back to sail­ing con­di­tion.

Most re­cently SEMA raised funds to pur­chase a new mast for just over $26,000. On Aug. 3 a crane was used to lift it, and it is cur­rently rest­ing near the Schooner Ernestina on the State Pier. It was made from a Dou­glas fir and brought by truck from Washington State.

After trim­ming and turn­ing, the mast is 84 feet and weighs over five tons.

Over the next few months, vol­un­teers and depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Recre­ation work­ers will pre­pare the mast to be lifted onto the schooner and fit­ted into place.

At that time, fol­low­ing sea­far­ing tra­di­tion, three coins will be placed un­der the mast as it is stepped. One coin from Cape Verde, one from the United States, and a 1945 New- found­land nickel to com­mem­o­rate the Mor­ris­sey’s last voy­age with Cap­tain Bob will be placed there.

“SEMA has been dili­gent in hon­or­ing the his­tory of the schooner, and it is im­por­tant for New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans to main­tain their ties to this wooden schooner that played such a role in New­found­land his­tory,” said a SEMA spokesman in a news re­lease.

SEMA was formed in 2008 to help raise funds to pro­vide for the main­te­nance, equip­ment, staffing, pro­gram­ming and op­er­a­tion of the schooner.

To date, the group has raised over $100,000 and are cur­rently in the pro­cess of a ma­jor cam­paign that was kick-started with a $47,000 match­ing do­na­tion from the DCR and a $700,000 pledge from the Hil­dreth Stewart Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion. The stip­u­la­tions of the pledge in­clude that the funds will be matched and that there will be a clear way for­ward for the ship to be op­er­ated as an ed­u­ca­tional enterprise.

bbow­man@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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