Cape Verdean-American Ethnic Heritage Committee in
Providence wrote to the President of Cape Verde inquiring
whether it would be possible to send the Ernestina
to America for the Bi-centennial. The President replied
that he would ensure that everything possible would be
done for the Ernestina to participate in Operation
Sail 1976. The Ernestina was hauled; forty
shipwrights, welders, mechanics and riggers worked on the
vessel from seven am to seven pm for two weeks; a man was
sent to Lisbon for new sails; seaman who had sailed on
her and two students from the Mindelo Navigation School
were selected for her crew; all that could be done to
make her ready was undertaken. Only her masts (which had
already caused concern to the surveyor) could not be
A news article appeared in the New Bedford Standard-Times on June 13, 1976:
On June 11, 1976 the Ernestina set sail from the wharf of Porto Grande, Sao Vicente-destination New York for OpSail 1976. The captain was Marcos Lopes; first mate, Belmiro Barros; motorman, Amaro Salamao. Around midnight engine trouble developed. The motorman tried to repair the broken motor pump while the Ernestina continued sailing. He managed to get the engine running again but at 4 am the pump again broke down. This was confirmed by considerable increase of water in the bilges.
At the same time it was noticed that the rigging on the foremast was too slack so it was decided to head for the closest port, Tarrafal de Monte Trigo, Santo Antao to fix the engine and tighten the rigging. The wind picked up and the sea became stormy, rocking the ship, tossing the sails, stretching the rigging, breaking some deadeyes, and causing the shrouds to become looser. They dropped the foresail and lashed the boom in order to help the foremast hold. They radioed the M/V Wilma which was accompanying the Ernestina to come closer to tow her to safe harbor. By 8 am it was apparent the foremast was going to come down. Just as the crew was attaching the towline, the foremast cracked, falling into the sea taking with it the large mainmast with all the sails. Since both masts were pounding against the side, endangering the schooner, it was necessary to cut off all the rigging, letting the new sails sink beneath the sea. Fortunately no persons were lost or injured.
An article appeared in the Providence Journal-Bulletin, June 22, 1976:
After the dismasting in the Atlantic, the Friends of Ernestina/Morrissey Committee lead by Laura Pires Houston was officially launched in New York. At a meeting at the National Maritime Historical Society (NMHS) in Brooklyn, about forty-five people were in attendance. The officers and members of the committee included U.S. Senators Edward W. Brooke and Edward M. Kennedy along with Don Ramos, Chair of the Cape Verdean-American Ethnic Heritage Committee, Austin Colgate, veteran of Bartlett voyages, Tony Lopes, Providence Corporation, and Michael Platzer, Office of Technical Assistance, United Nations. Operating under the auspices of the National Maritime Historical Society, the Committees purposes were to: 1) create and maintain local support-building structures 2) raise funds for Ernestinas restoration and return and 3) plan for her future use.