An Important Step Toward Ernestina-Morrissey’s Future

We applaud the hard work of Senator Mark Montigny along with Senator Vitiato deMacedo, Senator Michael Rodrigues and Senator Marc Pacheco.  This vote in the Senate brings us closer to a SAILING Ernestina-Morrissey!  “The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration.” Thank you, Senator Montigny!



Press Release

September 5, 2019

Senate Approves Montigny Ernestina Legislation

Senator’s bill is key to finalizing vessel’s restoration and long-term maintenance

BOSTON – Today, the Massachusetts State Senate engrossed Senator Mark Montigny’s legislation to complete the long-anticipated restoration of the historic Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey.  The Senate Committee on Ways and Means reported the bill favorably in the morning followed by unanimous approval by the full Senate later the same day.  The legislation will permit the Commonwealth to receive significant funding form private philanthropy, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in renovation costs.  The bill also seeks to honor the strong ties between the historic vessel and local Cape Verdean community.

Senator Montigny has long supported the vessel’s restoration in collaboration with the local delegation.  Since 2015, the vessel has been undergoing a complete restoration at Boothbay Harbor, Maine thanks to a combination of legislative earmarks and generous donations from Philanthropists Robert Hildreth and the late H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, totaling approximately $2.8 million.  The Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association (SEMA) also pledged $1 million.

Montigny began drafting S2287 earlier this year with input from the Academy, DCR, and other interested stakeholders.  He also ensured that the bill designates New Bedford as the vessel’s home port in perpetuity and requires significant access for New Bedford school children at no cost.  The Ernestina-Morrissey will also be made available in New Bedford for major cultural events such as the annual Cape Verdean Recognition Week.

“For decades, the people of New Bedford cared for and maintained the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey,” said Senator Montigny, who has long-supported capital and operating needs for the Ernestina-Morrissey during his Senate career.  “This meant we had to forgo public funding for other worthy projects in order to ensure we had the funding necessary to keep the Ernestina at sea.  After many years and countless, dedicated volunteers, we are now poised to complete a fully restored vessel accompanied by a thoughtful long-term maintenance and operations plan.  I am thankful for the Senate’s approval today and look forward to swift action in the House.”

With Phase I of the restoration project nearly complete, long-term plans to ensure the vessel’s operations and maintenance are now underway.  The Massachusetts Maritime Academy will assume control of the Commonwealth’s official vessel to provide for its operations and maintenance while still maintaining the vessel’s local connection with New Bedford.  The Academy, with the assistance of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, will ensure the Ernestina-Morrissey is docked in New Bedford at no cost for residents, school children, and tourists when not in use for training or official voyages.

These plans, however, are dependent upon legislation to formally transfer the vessel to the Academy and state appropriations to ensure the annual operations and maintenance needs are funded.  In May, Montigny worked with Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues and Senator Viriato deMacedo to secure $500,000 in the FY20 Senate Budget.  This funding has been secured in the final budget.

The legislation is cosponsored by Senator Viriato deMacedo (R-Plymouth), Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton), Representative Antonio F.D. Cabral (D-New Bedford), Representative Christopher Hendricks (D-New Bedford), and Representative David Vieira (R-Falmouth).  Former New Bedford Mayor John Bullard has also played a key role in facilitating the connection between the private donors and the Commonwealth.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration.