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