An article appeared in The Barnacle, Fairhaven, MA on May 23, 1991:

Schooner Ernestina Bouncing Back After Critical State Audit Report

It has been a rocky road for the Schooner Ernestina recently with the release of a highly critical state audit charging mismanagement of funds and the resignation of the state appointed commission.

More than $260,000 is unaccounted for after months of investigation by the state’s auditors office. The report criticizes the financial practices of the ship’s former captain Dan Moreland and the members of the five-member commission.

Following an emergency meeting on May 10th, the commission agreed to resign. The move would now clear the way for a new commission and further state funds. Most recently the state announced that it would release $140,000 in funds which was set aside for the restoration of the Alert to go instead to the Ernestina. The funds would help offset debts totaling over $100,000.

The ship has been lying idle throughout the winter months at Kelly’s Shipyard. The local Sea Scout Explorers have been maintaining her.

During the audit, the ship’s crew, captain and office staff were laid off. Director Joe Cardozo volunteered his time to continue to maintain the office. It is expected that another captain and crew will be hired though it is not known when that will take place.

The New Bedford Standard-Times June 29, 1991:

New Commission to take helm July 5, by Natalie White.

A new Schooner Ernestina Commission is expected to be sworn in next week by Gov. William F. Weld. The new commission will be installed during a ceremony July 5 aboard the historic state-owned schooner, whose homeport is New Bedford.

He said the first order of business for the new commission would be to pay off debts for repair work to the schooner. The commission must also hire a captain and crew and raise money to pay off debts for operating costs.

Joseph Cardozo, who has worked through the winter as a volunteer director of the schooner, said the newly formed non-profit Ernestina/Morrissey Historical Association, Inc. is pleased a new commission soon will take its place at the helm.

The schooner will sail July 3 from New Bedford to Boston to join in the annual USS Constitution turnaround.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Boston Preservation Alliance and Boston Harbor Festival chartered the schooner for three days to raise money for its programs. Those wishing to sail to Boston or back should contact the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Boston.

Back in New Bedford July 5, the schooner will celebrate its recent designation as a national historic landmark. The ship will be docked at state pier during the festivities, which will begin at 4pm and run into the night.

In 1991, Executive Director Joseph Cardozo and Capt. Doug Nemeth along with many volunteers worked hard to develop and secure programmatic use of the ship. They were very successful at turning the tide and shifting the focus of the commission and ship staff onto structured education programs and use of the schooner as a teaching and learning platform.

Former Commission Chairman Fred Littleton who sailed with Bartlett into the Arctic in 1940 built a scale model of the Ernestina ex-Effie M. Morrissey. He's out sailing in company with the larger version in July 1991.
Fred lives in Chilmark on Marthas Vineyard and has been the Menemsha Harbor Master for some years. His "Little Morrissey" was donated to the Essex Shilbuilding Museum in the mid-1990s.

June through September 1991 Shipboard Staff

Doug Nemeth, Captain
Willi Bank, Engineer
Karl Prosser,
Larry Pina,
Georgiana Solls,
Marty Casey,
Sarah Gruber,
David Jacques,
Russell Soiris, Deckhand
Susan Scherer,
John Harrer,
Daryl Shergin,
Mark Robinson,

After a remarkably active 1991 sailing season including sails with the USS Constitution, multi-day summer programs with schools and the Gloucester Schooner Race, the ship went into the yard at Gloucester Marine Railways on Harbor Loop for an annual haulout. During this time a new refrigeration system, desalinator, single sideband radio, depth sounder and central alarm system were installed in the ship making ready for long distance voyaging along with a new propeller and general U.S. Coast Guard inspection. The image  to the right shows a copper grounding plate for the SSB radio going on just aft of the transducer for the depth sounder.

In fall 1991, an ambitious plan was conceived to thrust Ernestina back into an active new career as ambassador and educator. With Gregg Swanzey aboard as captain, the ship sailed with 24 trainees, three women and 21 men, on a six-month transatlantic voyage with planned stops in Bermuda, Azores, Portugal, Cape Verde, Barbados and back to New Bedford via the Caribbean.

Shipboard Staff for six-month JTEC Sail

Gregg Swanzey, Captain
Esther Kennedy, Program Coordinator
David Bank,
Chief Mate
Brad Anderson,
Second Mate
Nancy Bernstein,
Third Mate
Denise Garzon,
AB Deckhand
Alexandra DeSteigeur,
Tara McCabe,
Willi Bank,
Mark Robinson,
Dr. William Bank, Doctor

The program was funded by a $140,000 grant from Job Training and Employment Corporation, Inc. (JTEC) as well as smaller grants and donations from other sources. The apprentices were aboard to learn marine skills and put in sailing time, making them eligible to take the Coast Guard able-bodied seaman exam.

A ceremony was held on the New Bedford waterfront on Saturday, October 19, 1991 featuring brief speeches by Mayor John Bullard, JTEC executive director, Kristine Dower, Schooner Ernestina commissioner Fred Littleton and Rep. Gerry Studds aid, Kevin Gallagher. Flags, well wishes and communiqués were given to Capt. Gregg Swanzey to be carried to each of the planned ports of call.

An article in the New Bedford Standard-Times on Friday, October 25, 1991 describes the departure on the six-month voyage:

Ernestina sails after insurance dispute is settled, by Natalie White.

Bourne - The Schooner Ernestina set sail overnight for a six-month training trip that will take the ship back to Cape Verde.

Questions about insurance and labor laws nearly canceled the trip, but in the end the problems only delayed its departure.

The state-owned schooner has been scheduled to leave from New Bedford Saturday for its first stopover in Bermuda, but instead was only allowed to sail to Martha’s Vineyard and then dock at Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay.

The Job Training and Employment Corporation of New Bedford, which is sponsoring the trip with a $140,000 grant, cleared the way for the trip Wednesday when board members voted to pay for half of a $48,000 liability insurance bill. Initially, organizers hoped the state would pick up the full tab, but the state Department of Environmental Management could come up with only half.

Schooner Ernestina departed for St. Georges, Bermuda at midnight on Friday, October 25, 1991. The voyage started with light winds and unusually warm weather but that was to change within two days.

The Perfect Storm, described in a book by Sebastian Junger, rose off the New England shore two days after Schooner Ernestina departed New England coastal waters for offshore. Excerpts from the logbook follow:

0300 Transit Quicks' Hole under power with good visibility, mild temperatures and light winds.

2300 Continue motoring SxE1/4E, position 39° 37'Nx69° 50'W calm, clear, mild night.

The chart above shows Ernestina's track in red with dates next to noontime positions, West Wall of the Gulf Stream in blue and warm eddies in light blue.

0300 Water temperature rising rapidly from 67° at 0100 to 75° F at position 39° 14’Nx69° 32’W as we continue steering due South for St. Georges, Bermuda. We are passing through the Gulf Stream!

1330 Begin setting all sail with instruction for all aboard. Set main, fore, jumbo, jib; stop engine and sail steering SxE1/4E. Ship both anchors and lash all boxes and gear, batten some hatches, prepare ship for possible wind developing from gale center at 32° N65° W due to move to 34° N66° W at 1200 Monday and out of the waters by Tuesday.

1930 Motoring under fore and jumbo steering South. Swell building, wind still light, clear skies. Prepare storm trys'l for setting.

2100 Set trys'l, main engine secured. Alter course to SxW, position 37° 36’Nx68° 18’W, to give more room to gale center. Wind NE'ly Force 2-3.

0700 Sailing on a port tack with trys'l, fore and jumbo steering SW, wind ExN, force 5, cumulus clouds building, occasional sprinkle.

1330 Strike storm trys'l, gybe to WNW on starboard tack, reset trys'l, position 36° 29’Nx68° 58’W. The Gale is deepening and is not turning as predicted. We turn toward the west for more searoom on the gale without returning into the Gulf Stream where seas would be accentuated in a building NE'ly gale.

1900 The gale center has risen to wind speeds of a hurricane and has been named 'Grace'

Hurricane Grace's track is in green as Ernestina moves west and south past Cape Hatteras

0700 We continue steering toward the west and Cape Hatteras to avoid 'Grace.' The hurricane is still tracking toward us on a NW'ly track but is expected to turn and pass off to the East.

1330 The wind is rising rapidly now to NE'ly Force 8 as we strike the foresail and main trys'l and set a trys'l on the foremast with the jumbo set forward. We gybe to a port tack now to steer South parallel to the VA/NC coast 200 miles ENE Cape Hattaras. We cannot get pushed back into the Gulf Stream!

1800 We strike the Main Trys'l and sail under Fore Trys'l and Jumbo alone steering a SW'ly course and hear the response by US Coast Guard to a distress call from the Schooner Anne Khristine 100 miles to windward of us. Our position is 35° 50'Nx72° 40’W.

2300 We continue on a S'ly course with frequent boarding by 25 - 30' seas in a NE'ly Force 9 wind. 'Grace' continues to track to the NW toward us.

0715 We are continuing parallel to the coast on a SSE'ly course 180 miles SE of Cape Hattaras now in Force 9 winds with signs of moderation. 'Grace' has just been reported to turn on the USCG weather report by single sideband radio.

2200 We continue SSE with winds beginning to moderate finally! A report comes through describing a low-pressure system crossing Quebec and combining with Hurricane 'Grace' with a retrograde to the west and rebuilding of wind and seas. We call by single sideband and decide we must abandon the plan of stopping in Bermuda and instead divert toward San Juan, Puerto Rico.

2315 We hear another distress call coming over the radio re: the Sloop 'Satori' We are farther to the south and much too far away to leeward to assist in any way.

0700 We continue on a SSE'ly course toward Puerto Rico with the seas still very high but the wind continuing to moderate. Position 32° Nx71° 10W.

2300 The wind has moderated as we pass further south. We find the main engine 'stuffed' by salt water (the cylinder heads are full of salt water) as we attempt to start the engine. The extremely large seas of the past days forced their way past the vertical loop [designed to keep water out] in the exhaust system into the engine block. We are forced to begin taking the manifolds and valve covers off to begin the process of barring over the engine and forcing water out, reassembling and hoping for it to start again. Meanwhile, the seas continue to roll the ship hard with less and less wind to dampen the roll or move us along toward our destination.

1300 We continue to work on the main engine with winds NW'ly Force 5 and continuing seas. We are 200 miles SW of Bermuda and at least five days away from Puerto Rico.

1900 Winds have dropped to W'ly at Force 2. Skies have cleared but seas are still high. Rolling continues relentlessly.

0650 The main engine starts and we run at ¾ speed steering SSE'ly for Puerto Rico with Bermuda 250 miles behind us and our destination 600 miles away.

2100 We lay at anchor in anchorage 'D' off Club Nautico, San Juan, Puerto Rico!

An article appeared in the New Bedford Standard-Times on November 13, 1991:

Cancel Cape Verde voyage, Ernestina captain says, by Natalie White

New Bedford - The captain of the Schooner Ernestina is recommending canceling plans to sail across the Atlantic to Cape Verde, and instead have the ship winter in the Caribbean.

Because the schooner had a late start, and had to change its itinerary when it met the fringes of Hurricane Grace a few weeks ago, the best time to cross the Atlantic has passed, Capt. Gregg Swanzey said Tuesday in a telephone interview from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Joseph Cardozo, executive director of the Schooner Ernestina Commission, said personality and other problems arise aboard ship just as they do ashore. "All ships are just a microcosm of our society, and reflective of our society and some of the problems we have," he said. "The primary goal of the program is still being met. That is sea training for those who want to become able-bodied seamen."

On December 21, 1991 the apprentice seamanship program was discontinued as a result of underfunding after the departure of eight trainees in Puerto Rico. The remaining trainees loaded into taxis in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua and made their way across the island to the airport near St. Johns, the capital of Antigua. Immediately the captain and crew of the schooner got underway for St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands in order to discuss the strategy for getting Ernestina home from a port of refuge in U.S. waters.

After several weeks of discussions between the Ernestina crew, Schooner Ernestina Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, an agreement was formed, funding was wired for essentials and the ship got underway for Miami, Florida. By early February 1992 Schooner Ernestina lay at Dodge Island at a safe berth with Mark C. Robinson as caretaker aboard and the captain and crew were released. Another crew was to be assembled to bring the Ernestina north back to her homeport several months later in the spring.

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