Forum Press Release

Ernestina Forum to Discuss Uncertain Future of Storied Ship

Congressman Barney Frank to Give Legislative Update

New Bedford, MA – On Saturday, October 30, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association (SEMA) will hold a forum at the New Bedford Whaling Museum to discuss potential future uses of the historic Schooner Ernestina. In addition to break-out sessions, there will be a plenary session where Congressman Barney Frank is expected to give an update on pending legislation that could affect funding of the ship. The event is co-sponsored by the Schooner Ernestina Commission, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. They seek diverse constituents ready to work together to describe how their ideas for the future of the Ernestina can be organized into a plan to sustain the ship’s restoration and operation. 

“She means so much to so many from around the globe.  Our hope is that, through this forum, diverse peoples will come together and create a workable vision for the Ernestina’s future so that we don’t lose her to deterioration,” stated Bob Hildreth, Chair of the Schooner Ernestina Commission.

The purpose of the Forum is not to discuss her history, but rather, her future. The Forum will be an interactive discussion, where attendees are asked to come ready to discuss their own practical, new ideas that will, ultimately, lead to restoration of the historic vessel.

“The schooner’s multi-faceted history as Ernestina and as Effie M. Morrissey naturally connects her to diverse constituencies.  These include historic vessel and tall-ships enthusiasts, fishing communities tied to the Grand Banks, those interested in Captain Bob Bartlett and in scientific exploration, Cape Verdeans and Cape Verdean-Americans, educators, former crew members, preservationists, and tourism/business development groups,” commented Mary Anne McQuillan, SEMA’s President.
The ship, docked in New Bedford Harbor, is the official vessel of Massachusetts and a National Historic Landmark. In 2005, the Ernestina was not granted U.S. Coast Guard certification as a small passenger and sailing school vessel due to her deterioration. Her inability to sail has prohibited the schooner from “earning her keep” through grants, programs and special event fees that were previously generated through education and visitation programs serving more than 20,000 people annually.  In 2009, major reconstruction was accomplished on the forward end of the vessel using a federal Save America’s Treasures grant matched by the State.

The Forum sponsors will use the participants’ work to create plans and alliances needed to obtain funds for reconstruction of the aft section so the Ernestina can regain certification to sail. “Together, we must ensure that this national treasure is fully restored and that generations to come can use the rich cultural history, and educational and economic value she possesses,” remarked Julius Britto, Vice President of SEMA. SEMA was formed in 2008 when a group of individuals committed to restoring the Ernestina convened and set their mission to help raise funds to provide for the maintenance, equipment, staffing, programming and operation of the schooner.

The October 30th event is free and open to the public, however, pre-registration is required and space is limited.