By James Niedzinski
---- — Evelina M. Goulart is in rough shape, held together with chains, straps and a patchwork of wood and metal beams in an Essex shipyard while six of her remaining relatives — many of which are in better condition — remain scattered across New England.
But, considering the 90-ton, 83-foot schooner is just about 86 years old and last hit the water in the mid 1980s, it is still holding together.
The vessel, first launched on June 29, 1927, is just one of seven remaining historic schooners built in Essex; the others are largely repaired with newer parts, equipment and wood.
The Evelina M. Goulart is a transitional vessel in more ways than one: it served as a dragger and a swordfishing vessel; it could harness the power of wind through its sails or speed through the sea using an onboard engine.
It fished out of New Bedford and Gloucester, and has survived two hurricanes, but ultimately sank in Fairhaven Harbor.
In 1990, the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum accepted the vessel as a gift from Capt. Bob Douglas; it now sits at the museum, just a few feet away from where it was constructed.
Ever since, the museum has been working to stabilize and preserve the vessel while keeping it in its original form.
The vessel had survived two previous hurricanes, and made it back to Fairhaven Harbor, where she eventually sank at her dock.
A few years later, the Essex Shipbuilding Museum accepted the vessel as a gift from Capt. Bob Douglas in 1990. Douglas oversaw the raising of the vessel and its return to Essex.
“Ships are not made to be out of the water,” said Lee Spence, president of the museum’s board of directors.
The schooner has had to bear the brunt of the elements — and insects — on land.
“It’s in an arrested state of decay,” Spence said.
Various support beams and chains hold sagging and splintering parts of the boat together and the entire stabilization process is coming close to an end.
“Parts of it have certainly deteriorated, but its still intact,” said local shipwright Harold Burnham, who has worked as a consultant on the stabilization project throughout the years.
Burnham, who has Essex shipbuilding in his blood for nearly 20 generations, said the Evelina M. Goulart has served as a great bridge between how ships used to be built and how they are constructed today.
He said exploring the insides of the vessel and seeing what types of wood were used where provided a great foundation for a building and learning experience.
“Having an example of what we were doing right there was great to have,” he said. Burnham built the Gloucester-based schooners Ardelle and Thomas E. Lannon.
Monday night, the museum hosted a schooner challenge that raised about $5,000 to benefit the stabilization of the Evelina M. Goulart, Spence said. Participants paid to do ship-related work — sail raising, anchor weighing, knot tying and other tasks — while sailing around Gloucester Harbor on several vessels, including the Ardelle and Thomas E. Lannon.
The schooner challenge was well received, although the rain made a few of the vessels set to participate cancel their plans. Spence said about 90 people participated altogether.
Spence could not speculate on how the stabilization process might contribute to the Evelina M. Goulart’s longevity on land.
“As we speak, there are various natural processes at work,” he said.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3455 or firstname.lastname@example.org.