On January 17, 1982 the Sixth Annual Friends of the Schooner Ernestina meeting was held at the Opportunities Industrialization Center in Providence, RI. About 25 members of the Ernestina chapters from New England, New York, New Jersey and Washington attended. An exhibit of photographs lined the walls of the Rhode Island Heritage Society meeting room where the conference was held.

Tom Lopes, CVN publisher, asked the committee whether the voyage of the Ernestina/Morrissey would be under her own power or will it be towed. The response was the vessel would sail on its own. Lopes then informed the committee and others present that the CVN cable production crew from the program "Boa Vista" is planning on going to Cape Verde to video tape officials, craftsmen and others involved in rebuilding the ship. Oling Monteiro Jackson, coordinator of the meeting was pleased with the turnout and called for continued support.

"The Ernestina is not just a ship, not just an old wooden ship," said Laura Pires Houston, chairperson of the National Friends of the Ernestina/Morrissey Committee. "It also represents an indomitable, rugged spirit, that has crossed thousands of miles, crossing and mixing geographical, cultural and ethnic boundaries."

Among those taking part in the program were Michael L. Platzer, technical coordinator for the Ernestina refinishing, Oling Jackson, vice chairman of the National Friends of Ernestina/Morrissey, Joli Gonsalves, a state commission member, Ben Barros, chairman of the Friends of Ernestina/Morrissey in New Bedford, Alfred Cardoza, chairman of the Friends of Ernestina/Morrissey in Wareham and former state representative Thomas D. Lopes.

Capt. Richard Forsey of Global Services, in Clinton, CT, coordinated voyage preparations. Capt. Forsey is a descendant of Capt. Bob Bartlett of the famous Arctic expeditions of the Effie M. Morrissey.

Six American crewmembers journeyed to Cape Verde to participate in the voyage to America. They joined seven Cape Verdean crewmembers and Cape Verdean Capt. Marcos Nascimento Lopes to sail the vessel to the United States.

The American crew members included Norman Gomes, a former merchant seaman now working at Peregrine Yachts; Margaret Lyons of New York City, owner of a printing and design company and an experienced sailor; Ted Miles of Long Island, a volunteer research assistant for several museum vessels (now out at the San Francisco Maritime NHP); Stephen Platzer, a senior research scientist for the American Hoechst and ship's radio officer from New Brunswick, New Jersey; Stephen Hopkins, an expert on schooner restoration; and Steven Brown, ship's medic, on leave as Mayor of Carthage, Maine.

Prior to departure, days were spent scraping and painting surfaces, securing safety equipment, installing a generator and pump, and preparing and loading ballast to stabilize the ship and prevent capsizing in strong winds. For ballast the crew used sand as a cheap and efficient alternative to cargo. They went to a nearby beach and dug up, bagged, tied off and loaded 40 tons of sand into the cargo hold. Another three tons of pig iron completed the weight needed by the 106-foot ship.

The Ernestina left Mindelo, Cape Verde, at 10:30 am July 15, 1982.

The oldest crew member was 70-year-old Eugenio Fortes, who had called Ernestina home since 1956. He was an energetic, wiry man with strong ideas about the way things should be done. Another crewmember, 67-year-old Antonio, sailmaker, would sit for hours on deck, repairing the weathered or damaged sails or creating new sails with his tough, nimble fingers.

Gingi was cook and would spend 14 hours a day preparing meals. The ship carried 60 days worth of provisions, including 30 live chickens and four live pigs, which were slaughtered as needed and then packed in salt for preservation. There was no refrigeration nor running water. Both lunch and dinner began with soup, followed by pork, chicken or freshly caught fish; potatoes, rice or spaghetti; occasional onions or beans. Wine water and Tang were available for drinks. Gingi often baked bread, served directly from the oven.

Stephan Platzer was not assigned to a watch because of his responsibilities as radio operator. Every day at 3 pm EST he made contact with ham operators in Cape Verde and the United States who had generously offered their services as contact points. The United Nations Amateur Radio Club has loaned the ship a single sideband transceiver for the crossing. The radio antenna, strung between the fore and main masts each day could not remain aloft because it would conflict with the foresail rigging. Stephan would climb aloft twice a day to rig and derig the antenna.

The daily broadcasts were a lifeline for the crew as the voyage progressed. The ham operators provided weather reports, relayed reassuring messages to waiting families and kept Stephan in touch with his brother, Michael, who was coordinating plans for the arrival celebration. The radio brought them close to people whom they had never met. One ham operator was Art Greenberg, a Long Island resident who never missed a broadcast.

At 8:30 pm August 24, 1982 Schooner Ernestina docked at Ft. Adams in Newport, RI after a 38 day passage from Mindelo, Sao Vicente, CVI. [Passage description drawn from Return of the Ernestina by Linda Cardillo, Rutgers Alumni Magazine, Winter 1983.]

Mr. Humberto Morais, Director General of Ports in Cabo Verde and Mr. Orlando Lima, coordinator for the Ernestina Project in Cabo Verde, arrived in the United States from Cabo Verde and for the welcoming ceremony in Newport, RI.

An article appeared in the New Bedford Standard-Times Monday, August 30, 1982:

Ernestina repatriated in emotional ceremony, by David H. Kogut

New Bedford, MA- Slowly, very slowly yesterday, Eugenio Lopes of Mindelo, Cape Verde, lowered the flag of his native land from its flag staff on the stern of the schooner Ernestina. He had lived on the ship for 18 years as a crewman and caretaker, and made the recent voyage from the Cape Verde Islands.

A moment later, at 3pm, crew member Peggy Lyons of New York- the sole woman on the 38-day voyage to New England- hoisted the Stars and Stripes. The Ernestina had become American again. [She is shown in image to the right standing with Joli Gonsalves, Ernestina Commission chair]

The two-hour transfer ceremony was held on New Bedford’s Steamship Authority pier yesterday, marking the donation of the 88-year-old windjammer from the Republic of Cape Verde to the people of the United States and, finally, to the Massachusetts Schooner Ernestina Commission. New Bedford will be the Ernestina’s homeport - a theme stressed repeatedly during a ceremony that drew on every level of human experience, from high-level diplomacy to the yearnings of the humblest immigrant.

Officially, the ship was given to America by Jose Luis Fernandes Lopes, the Cape Verdean Republic’s ambassador to the United States. The arrival of the 107-foot ship in New Bedford "is more than a tribute to those Cape Verdeans who became the pioneers of our emigration...who demonstrated the utmost courage and perseverance by leaving their beloved country in search of a new life in distant lands," he said. The ship is "an unmistakable catalyst in fostering a very special bond of friendship and human assistance from one country to another."

Lopes closed with a wish, that the tall ship riding placidly at pier side "forever sail on the winds of hope, ever to remind us of the boundless possibilities of human understanding and cooperation."

His wishes were accepted with a hug from Raymond Pardon, the U.S. State Department’s specialist on Cape Verdean affairs. Pardon quoted from the text of a federal message to Cape Verdean President Aristides Pereira, thanking him for the gift. Signed, "Sincerely, Ronald Reagan," the letter read:

"The gift of the schooner Ernestina restored so carefully by your government and the ship’s many friends, is deeply appreciated. Its presence in New England will be a reminder of the seafaring traditions and special ties that our peoples share."

"On behalf of my fellow Americans, to whom you have so thoughtfully given the Ernestina, let me thank you for an enduring symbol of private endeavor and of effective cooperation between our governments. As you thoughtfully suggest, let it also be an example for larger cooperation and understanding among the peoples of the world."

Ernestina Mendes Randall, 65, and namesake of the schooner, was at yesterday’s ceremony, unable to say anything more than "Thank you, America," before surrendering to the tears cascading down her cheeks.

For most of the crowd of 1,000, the revels had started Saturday night, when the ship arrived at the Steamship Authority pier to a New Year’s Eve-style celebration of horns, cheers, bells and chants. The ship had docked in Newport six days ago, at the conclusion of a trans-Atlantic crossing made entirely under sail.

Antone Ramos of Providence, first national chairman of the Friends of the Ernestina, cautioned yesterday that much work lies ahead. "We are going to keep the Ernestina in New Bedford." Ramos said. The ship has more than Cape Verdean history Laura Pires Houston said. "It has human history, universal history," a message that is "trans-national, trans-ethnic." The history of the ship has traversed more than 80 years. It is broader than just one people. "What it can tell us about is the possibility of what people can do together." Mrs. Houston said.

The Ernestina’s homeport has been New Bedford since its festive arrival three months ago after a 38-day sail from Cape Verde. But finances have been and still are a problem.

The crowd waits for Ernestina to come alongside at Onset Town Pier enroute to Gloucester to be laid up for the winter and await work.

  backmain menunext