The Essex-built schooner Ernestina, deemed the state's official vessel, will make a special stop in Gloucester Harbor tomorrow as part of its four-day journey home to New Bedford following completion of extensive restoration work at Boothbay Harbor Shipyard in Maine.
The National Historic Landmark is scheduled to arrive at noon at the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center on Harbor Loop. It will then depart Thursday morning, when it will power its 350-horsepower marine diesel engine toward Rowes Wharf in Boston.
"It will be great to have Ernestina back in the commonwealth," said state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Commissioner Richard Sullivan Jr. "And the fact that this 115-year-old ship is coming back here under its own power is quite exciting."
Some local residents will have a chance to get a jump on seeing the Ernestina. For a minimum $30 donation to benefit the Ernestina, originally the Effie M. Morrissey, the public can help escort the vessel into Gloucester and the Maritime Heritage Center from aboard the 65-foot schooner Thomas E. Lannon.
Lannon skipper Tom Ellis said yesterday he's excited about the visit, calling the Ernestina an "awe-inspiring" sight.
"The Ernestina is the second most important sailing vessel in the country next to the USS Constitution, so it's a big deal," Ellis said. "We're going to go out, salute them and escort them into town."
Ellis urged those interested in welcoming the Ernestina to arrive at the Seven Seas Wharf at the Gloucester House Restaurant by 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. The Lannon will set sail promptly at 11 a.m. to meet the larger schooner, Ellis said. The venture will be weather permitting; anyone interested in making the trip should make reservations by calling 978-869-3170.
Once in the city's port, visitors will be able to board the Ernestina and meet its six-member crew at the Maritime Heritage Center free of charge tomorrow from noon to 5 p.m.
A reception at the Gloucester House Restaurant will follow from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. to those offering a $25 donation. An evening of Maritime Music at the Heritage Center from 7 to 9 p.m. will conclude the Ernestina's official visit.
Those offering a $20 donation at the door will have the opportunity to enjoy the music of Three Sheets to the Wind, a band comprised of John Rockwell and Larry Young, and Daisy Nell and Capt. Stan. All of the donations will go to benefit preservation of the Ernestina.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Paul Brawley, who serves as the DCR's executive director of the Ernestina, and Harold Burnham, an 11th-generation master shipwright from Essex, oversaw the repairs to ensure work followed U.S. Coast Guard standards as well as the Department of the Interior's Standards for Historic Vessel Preservation projects.
The repairs, which included a rehabilitation of the front half of the vessel above the waterline, were funded by a $500,000 Save America's Treasures grant funded by the National Park Service and matched with $500,000 from DCR's Partnerships Matching Funds Program and donations from the general public.
Built in 1894 in Essex, the Ernestina is a permanent part of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.
The ship was famous as a Grand Banks fishing schooner, an Arctic exploration vessel that came within 578 miles of the North Pole, a U.S. Navy vessel in World War II, and as a Cape Verde trans-Atlantic packet that was the last sailing vessel in regular service to bring immigrants to this country. More recently, the schooner was a sail-training, education vessel for the state.
In 1982, the Republic of Cape Verde, with financial support from Friends of Ernestina/Morrissey, restored Ernestina and presented the ship as a gift to the people of the United States and ultimately to Massachusetts.
The ship is the oldest surviving Grand Banks fishing schooner — one of two surviving 19th-century Essex-built Gloucester fishing schooners — and is one of only two Arctic exploration sailing vessels left afloat in the nation.
According to the schedule, after departing Boston, the Ernestina will go through the Cape Cod Canal on Friday, between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m., and will anchor off the coast overnight.
At noon on Saturday, the Ernestina will arrive at New Bedford State Pier, with a welcoming ceremony planned there as well.
Jonathan L'Ecuyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.