Under cool, sunny skies the ceremonial, final “shutter” plank was laid into the hull of New Bedford’s very own historic, Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey. The event marked a major milestone in the complete rebuild of the Schooner that has been ongoing since the Spring of 2015. The vessel had been towed to Boothbay Harbor in Maine where her hull has been rebuilt to the highest standards by shipwrights, under the watchful eye of senior shipwright David Short and shipyard owner Andy Tyska. In attendance were a noteworthy crowd of dedicated Ernestina-Morrissey supporters who have worked with determination and vision to see this iconic ship sail again.
The celebration of the laying of the shutter or “whiskey” plank, is a traditional mariner’s benchmark. This plank is the last to be put into place to finish the construction of the ship’s hull. The Ernestina-Morrissey’s shutter plank was inscribed with names of financial donors to the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association (SEMA)’s “Whiskey Plank Club”. The names included a diverse “crew” of supporters of the current rehabilitation project as well as donors’ family member names who sailed aboard her during all the eras of Ernestina-Morrissey’s history.
SEMA Board Member Mary Anne McQuillan was moved to tears, saying, “It is inspiring to see many names of the generations who have supported Ernestina-Morrissey, from the descendants of Gloucester fishermen and Arctic explorers, to generations of Cape Verdean-Americans and all the “crew” who have loved the vessel since1982.”
It was an emotional event enjoyed by all marked by the blessing of the plank with rum, whiskey, Cape Verdean grogue, and Buzzards Bay beer. They represent the vessel’s unique history as a Grand Banks fishing schooner, an Arctic explorer, a Cape Verdean trans-Atlantic packet, and most recently, a cultural and educational sail-training vessel and the Official Vessel of Massachusetts.
SEMA Board President Julius Britto and his wife Sandra, McQuillan and Fred Sterner, former Mate and Commissioner, SEMA Charter Board Member John Bullard, “Sails Over Ice and Seas” documentary videographer Cody Mitchell, Tyska and his skilled workers were all present.
Britto was beaming as he said, “The craftmanship and materials used in the revival of the Ernestina-Morrissey will make everyone associated with this project proud. Those who participate in her future cultural, educational, and sailing programs will receive a world class experience.”
Bullard added, “We celebrate this milestone in her journey to rebirth. To come this far in her restoration is a testament to SEMA, the City of New Bedford, and the highest levels of state government working together with a common goal. It is our shared anticipation of her future teaching the public about ocean science and maritime history that excites us most.”
The hull is complete, but SEMA still needs the public’s support to finish interior and deck work. Visit the organization’s website at www.ernestina.org to learn more about the shutter plank ceremony, the rebuild project, and the Ernestina-Morrissey’s amazing history. Please make a tax-deductible donation online today or mail to SEMA, PO BOX 2995, New Bedford, MA 02741.