January 1994, new legislation was written and offered by
Senator Mark Montigny and Representative Tony Cabral and
signed by Governor Weld that established a new structure
for the Schooner Ernestina Commission, designated
the schooner as the official vessel of the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts and specified the
placement of the Commission within the Department of
Environmental Management. This key measure lead to a
rebirth of the ship and a more secure future.
100th year a new mast was shaped, a White Pine felled by
a local logger, Norman Hicks from Charlemont, a western
A new Log for an old ship, by
B.J. Roche, Special to the Boston Globe, May 29,
In Charlemont, artisans carve a mast for
storied schooner. The Ernestina, one of the last of
the old Essex fishing schooners, sits in a marina on
the Massachusetts coast, badly in need of a new mast.
About 150 miles away, in the states western
hills, a 137 foot-tall white pine lies felled in a
field near the deep woods of the Mohawk Trail State
The twain are beginning to meet in a sunlit
meadow by the Deerfield River, as woodworkers saw,
chip and chisel away three tons of bark and wood from
the 7-ton, 120-year-old tree to turn it into a mast
for the 100-year-old ship. Except for the power
tools, the scene is like one a century old, too.
Craftsmen just dont work this way anymore.
"This is similar to a lot of work we
do," said Jim Kricker, 43, of Saugerties, N.Y.
"Were taking an irregular shaped timber
and making a regular shape out of it."
"It sounds crazy," said Wayne Ford,
33, of Denver, N.Y., as he measured the 3-foot
diameter pine too begin cutting. "Were
going to take a round tree, make it square and make
it round again. But thats how you do it."
Ford and Kricker work for Rondout Woodworking
of Saugerties, which specializes in restoring old
boats and old water-powered sites. Beginning with a
two-man chain saw and finishing with hand tools, they
will carve the pine down to a mast that is 80 feet
long and tapers from 20 inches to 17.
This area was once a rich source of such trees
- Mohawk Trail State Forest even has a grove of
"old growth" trees - but they were almost
never used in the state. Instead, such trees were
called "Kings pines," branded with an
arrow, and sent back to England for use in the
Gregg Swanzey, 41, captain of the Ernestina,
tramped the woods of Massachusetts and New York State
for months to find a tree with the height, width and
straightness needed for a mast. Department of
Environmental Management forester Joanne Nunes of
Pittsfield found this one and, two weeks ago, local
forester Norman Hicks felled it.
With a new mast, Swanzey hopes to have
Ernestina sailing out of New Bedford by July. The
ship is now owned by the Department of Environmental
Management, which intends to operate it as a sailing
museum. And if Congress passes a bill designating New
Bedfords historic district a national park, the
Ernestina will become a major part of it.
According to Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New
Bedford), the state has committed another $100,000
this year to complete the repairs, including the
$25,000 to $35,000 required to replace the mast. The
state and the City of New Bedford will also provide
So, with new management, increased public
support, and now, a new mast, Swanzey says he hopes
the Ernestina will begin its second century with yet
another era of glory days. "I didnt know
if Id ever see this moment," Swanzey said.
"Now its going to be easier to invest in
An article appeared in the Standard-Times on June 3,
Commission will steer Ernestina
into the future, by Jack Stewardson-
Gov. William F. Weld, looking to put the
schooner Ernestina on a solid foundation, was due to
swear in a new and expanded state commission today to
oversee the operations of the historic ship.
The swearing in of the nine-member commission -
which will include two members from New Bedford, Carl
J. Cruz and Pauline Macedo - was scheduled for this
afternoon at the Whaling Museum, where the commission
is expected to hold an organizational session.
Gov. Weld also was due to announce $370,000 in
grants and program funds to support the schooner. The
money includes $200,000 from the state Department of
Environmental Management for capital repairs and debt
relief, a $70,000 grant from the state Office of
Travel and Tourism for hiring an interim director and
two part-time staffers and insurance, and $50,000
each from the Department of Youth Services and UMASS
Dartmouth to operate recreational and summer youth
programs in conjunction with the vessel.
Some of the $370,000 has already been advanced
to the schooner.
"The members of this commission will guide
the Ernestina through a new era as she becomes an
invaluable educational and recreational tool for the
youth in the New Bedford region as well as an
ambassador of goodwill for all the citizens of
Massachusetts," Gov. Weld said in a press
release announcing the new Commission.
"This is a new beginning, with a clean
slate," said State Rep. Antonio F. D. Cabral,
D-New Bedford, who sponsored legislation last year to
expand the commission from five to nine members and
increase accountability for the ships
operation. "The commission will have the
opportunity to set a new course for the
"I think the governor has really made it
clear that this is a ship of Massachusetts,"
said Mr. Cruz, who was an original member of the
Ernestina Commission and currently serves as
president of the Ernestina-Morrissey Historical
Association, a support group for the vessel.
He also said he hopes the commission can be an
active catalyst for fund-raising on behalf of the
vessel "so we can ensure the ship will be around
for another hundred years."
"Were hoping to get everybody
working in harmony for the betterment of the
Ernestina and the Cape Verdean community," said
Mrs. Macedo, who also has been a member of the
Ernestina-Morrissey Historical Association for four
Others named to the commission include:
Mimi McConnell of Cotuit, executive director of
the Coalition for Buzzards Bay.
Peter J. Lawrence of Duxbury, president of the
Boston Marine Society, vice-president for marine
operations with the American Overseas Marine Corp. in
Quincy and a member of the board of visitors at the
Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
H. James Brown of Cambridge, professor of city
and regional planning and director of the joint
center for housing studies at the JFK School of
Government at Harvard University.
Blair Brown of Newton, principle owner of
Charrette, an architect supply firm.
Under the legislation sponsored by Rep. Cabral,
Dr. Robert Antonucci, state commissioner of
Department of Education, Peter Webber, commissioner
of Department of Environmental Management and Abbie
Goodman, executive director of the state Office of
Travel and Tourism, or their designees, will also
automatically serve on the commission.
The legislation has also designated New Bedford
as the Ernestinas official homeport.
An article appeared in the Standard-Times on July 8,
is made whole once again, by Jack
As the long arm of the 65-ton crane eased the
mainmast of the schooner Ernestina into the air like
some giant toothpick, 7-year-old Barry John DePina
looked on in wonder. "Look at it," he
called as the crane guided the 85-foot mast to the
historic schooner at the D.N. Kelley and Sons
It was a moment to savor Thursday as the
100-year-old schooner again began to take on the look
of a sailing ship as workers re-stepped its mainmast
and the new 80-foot foremast, recently fashioned form
a 130-foot white pine cut from the Mohawk Trail State
Forest in Western Massachusetts.
"Its nice to have them both up there
in place," said Gregg Swanzey, interim director
and captain of the schooner, who said he hopes to see
the vessel rigged and completing its Coast Guard
inspection in the next few weeks. "Its a
fresh start in many ways," Mr. Swanzey said.
Peter Webber, commissioner of the state
Department of Environmental Management and a
designated state member of an expanded
state-appointed commission overseeing operations of
the vessel, called it "a wonderful day in the
second century of the Ernestina."
Officials hope the schooner will be ready to
take part in the citys Summerfest and Blessing
of the Fleet at the end of the month. Also, a newly
reorganized and expanded state Ernestina Commission
is considering several options for sail training and
passenger programs through the balance of the sailing
Also on hand for Thursdays ceremonies
were Reps. Joseph McIntyre, D-New Bedford, and John
Quinn, D-Dartmouth; and state Sen. Mark C.W.
Montigny, D-New Bedford.
Also, descendants of families with ties to the
historic schooner - which has been a Grand Banks
fishing schooner, an Arctic exploration vessel and a
Cape Verdean packet ship - took part in the event.
There was a ceremony involving the longtime
maritime tradition of placing coins under the masts.
Set underneath the masts were an 1894 coin marking
the schooners launching in Essex in February
that year; several Cape Verdean coins; an Ellis
Island commemorative coin to mark the ships
history as an immigrant ship; a seal of the city of
New Bedford; and a 1994 silver dollar to mark the
beginning of the schooners second hundred
"I have a lot of emotions," said Tina
Mendes, granddaughter of Henrique Mendes, who owned
and operated the Ernestina during its days as a Cape
Verdean packet. "This ship is a symbol of hope
and past accomplishments and future
"This is wonderful to see this ship is
coming back to life, and is going to succeed,"
said Fred Littleton, the immediate past chairman of
the state Ernestina Commission who, as a young man,
was a crewmember aboard the vessel when it sailed the
Arctic under Capt. Robert Bartlett.
"I know my great-granduncle would be very
proud the boat is still here, still serving
people," said Capt. Kermit Morrissey,
grandnephew of the original owner of the vessel -
which, as the Effie M. Morrissey, was launched as a
Grand Banks fishing schooner in February 1894.
Two sons of Capt. Mendes, Joseph S. Mendes and
Arnaldo Mendes, said part of their late father
survives in the Ernestina.
Among those taking part in the ceremony were
Carl J. Cruz and other members of the Schooner
Ernestina Commission; Joseph Andrade and Ms. Mendes,
descendants of Capt. Mendes; Barry John DePina, whose
parents have been supportive of the schooner since it
returned to the United States in 1982 as a gift from
the Republic of Cape Verde; Dewitt Clement Littleton,
grandson of Mr. Littleton and Capt. Morrissey.
Schooner Ernestina received an additional
certification as a passenger vessel from U.S. Coast Guard
(Subchapter T) after certain modification
such as blanking off a watertight door between the
focsl and the main hold area and moving
inspection ports on the fuel tanks. This step enabled
operations to include daysails and other community-based
activities to be possible when programs were less devoted to sail training which is a pre-requisite for
Sailing School Vessel operation.
The 1994 sailing season began with a Centennial
Celebration at the Blessing of the Fleet in late July
thanks to a great effort by Claudia Belleau and Capt.
Tom Grace. "The vision we have for the Ernestina
centennial celebration is to promote the original purpose
of the gift. When the Cape Verdean government gave her to
the United States, the idea was to promote cultural
exchange," said Claudia Belleau, artistic director for
ACCESS, which is promoting the celebration. Presenters at
the celebration included Toi Fortes who put
together Tonkas Tumblers; John Joli
Gonsalves with songs, stories and folklore; Cape Verdean
Womens Folkloric Dancers with traditional dances in
costume; musical group Tropical Power; sea
stories form Capts. Norman Gomes and Tom Grace; Ramona Bass with African
folktales; great jazz from Semenya McCord and Herbie King as well as
John Harrison III; The Rum-Soaked Crooks; The Beans; and Blake &
Sullivan with Vic Witherspoon (Irish and American folk). "Tom
Lopes of the Cape Verdean News has really helped with the
promotion, said Ms. Belleau. "The Cape
Verdean Vets will be offering a taste of Cape Verde,
cooking and serving traditional dishes."
The year was marked with some other crucial
achievements including the authoring Commission by-laws
and policies, payment of more than $110,000 in debt
accrued over the past several years, establishment of an
office, development of a brochure and bringing the
financial audits up to date.
On Veterans Day, November 11, 1994 the Schooner Ernestina
received a plaque commemorating the gifting of the ship
by the Republic of Cape Verde in memory of Joseph
Cardozo, former director for the Commission, who had
recently passed away. Carl Cruz, president of the Ernestina-Morrissey
Historical Association (EMHA) and dignitaries from the
Consul Generals office in Boston were on hand for
comments along with the color guard from the Verdean Vets
in New Bedford. This event marked the significance of the
gift in the hundredth year and helped shaped her launch
into her second century in 1995.
Some of the people who helped shape the Schooner
Ernestina programs for years to come came aboard in 1994.
Tom Goux, a noted maritime musician and Falmouth music
teacher was hired as program coordinator and Capt. Amanda
Madeira came aboard as chief mate. Traudi Coli had already been studying
the packet trade for years and expanded her involvement through the
onboard programs and festivals.
For more stories please follow the link to the newsletter from the outreach
1994 Shipboard Crew ~ Many volunteered their time. Thanks!
Tom Goux, Program Coordinator
Amanda Madeira, Mate
Richard Perkins, Mate
Laurie Belisle, Program Coordinator
Doug Randall, Mate
Nildo Andrade, Steward
Raphael Corday, Engineer
Waltraud Coli, Historian
David Fairfax, Deckhand
Aaron Macedo, Deckhand
Leon Poindexter, Deckhand
Marty Casey, Deckhand
Joe Andrade, Deckhand
Jeanna Ozyck, Deckhand
Bill Oliviera, Deckhand
Bob Heller, Educator
Rhonda MacLeod, Educator
John Dinda, Deckhand
Marty Tullock, Deckhand
Langdon Schmidt, Deckhand
Phil Gidley, Deckhand
Bob Marchand, Deckhand
Jim Bean, Deckhand
Cindy Bean, Deckhand
Paul Matylas, Deckhand
Lisa Cabana, Deckhand and Office Manager
Tony Scallon, Deckhand
Antero Pereira, Deckhand
TC DeBarros, Deckhand
Don Thompson, Deckhand
John Chris Parker, Deckhand