Photo/courtesy MA DCR

The historic Schooner Ernestina has returned to her berth at the New Bedford State Pier after undergoing repairs in Fairhaven since June. The schooner, which is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and operated and maintained by the state Division of Conservation and Recreation, will reopen to the public in spring of 2012.

The Ernestina was towed from Fairhaven Shipyard, where it had undergone repairs and maintenance that included replacement of 25 planks, repainting and caulking of joints at a total cost of $183,000 funded by DCR. In the coming weeks, DCR staff will winterize the ship and conduct maintenance.

Ernestina History:

Built in 1894 the Schooner Ernestina, formerly the Effie M. Morrissey, is a National Historic Landmark and the official vessel of the Commonwealth. The boat is the oldest surviving Grand Banks fishing schooner, the only surviving 19th century Gloucester-built fishing schooner, and 1 of 2 remaining examples of the Fredonia-style schooners—the most famous American fishing-vessel type. The schooner is also 1 of only 2 sailing Arctic exploration vessels left afloat in the United States. The other is the Schooner Bowdoin, a National Historic Landmark.

Ernestina undergoing repairs at Fairhaven Shipyard, Photo/BoatingLocal

The Commonwealth has owned the Ernestina since 1982 after receiving the vessel as a gift to the United States from the Republic of Cape Verde. The Schooner Ernestina Commission, which is appointed by Governor Patrick and composed of community representatives and historical, tourism and education experts, is responsible for overseeing preservation and operation of the 117-year-old schooner. DCR owns and manages the vessel on behalf of the Commonwealth and works cooperatively with the Commission on preservation projects.

The Schooner Ernestina’s principal mission is educational, providing on-board and dockside public tours.

DCR invested $1.2 million—including $500,000 in federal funds from the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures Grant Program—on repairs to the forward section of the Ernestina from 2008 to 2009. DCR is undertaking a full assessment of the ship’s condition with the goal of restoring the ship to sailing condition, as the Ernestina requires further repairs to her masts and rigging.

In 2006, Governor Patrick directed commission members to develop public-private partnerships to create financial stability for capital repairs and the continued operation of the Ernestina. As part of this effort, the Schooner Ernestina Morrissey Association (SEMA) purchased a new mast.

The history of the Schooner Ernestina:

  • Ernestina at Fairhaven Shipyard this summer, Photo/BoatingLocal

    1894: Built in Gloucester, named Effie M. Morrissey

  • 1894-1925: Fishing schooner, and from 1914-1925, a cargo carrier
  • 1926-1946: Arctic exploration schooner, under Captain Robert A. Bartlett (1875-1946), including service in WWII
  • 1948: Renamed Ernestina
  • 1948-1960s: Transporting cargo and Cape Verdean immigrants to and from the United States
  • 1970s: Establishment of local and national friends groups advocating for Ernestina’s preservation
  • 1982-today: Educational vessel owned and operated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

For more information about the history of the Ernestina, visit the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Library Ernestina archives page .

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