8 September 2022 — Celebrating the Launch of Ernestina-Morrissey

Ernestina-Morrissey is back in the water! After a technical issue with the railway on an earlier launch attempt on 29 August, the 128-year-old schooner was refloated successfully just before 1 pm on the 30th.

This most recent restoration of Ernestina-Morrissey began on 13 April 2015, when she arrived in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, towed by the tug Jaguar. The Shipyard in Boothbay Harbor had an ambitious to-do list: the masts, machinery and interior structures were removed, as well as ceiling planking and 100,000 pounds of lead and poured concrete ballast. A new sternpost and rudder post and box were fabricated. To aid them in returning her closer to her original lines, the crew studied historic photographs and records of lines taken in 2008, 2015, as well as lines drawn in 1931 by Southmayd Hatch & Thomas A. Soyster. She is now being prepared for sea; her sails and rigging are being installed by the capable crew of Traditional Rigging Co.—go on over to their Facebook page for some wonderful photos from that process. 

A birds-eye view of Ernestina-Morrissey, back in the water at the Shipyard in Boothbay Harbor. Thank you to Rick Lopes and Alessandro Lopes of Voyage Digital Media for sharing with us this amazing image from the footage they shot in capturing launch day for the upcoming documentary Sails Over Ice and Seas: The Life and Times of Ernestina-Morrissey.

Sea History readers have been following the schooner’s journey since the very early years of the magazine; in our fourth issue (July 1976), the vessel appeared in no fewer than three different places, including an article by Daniel Durrell called “Saving the American Schooner” and a status report proffered by Charles F. Sayle. As of press time back in ’76, the government of Cape Verde planned to send the schooner, then sailing under the name Ernestina, to the US to salute this country’s bicentennial. She was dismasted underway and unable to complete the transit, but the next issue of Sea History carried news of developing plans to bring her permanently to the United States. The online index to Sea History will lead you to many fascinating stories from Ernestina-Morrissey’s past and present.  

Launched in 1894 in Essex, MA, as the Effie M. Morrissey, the Grand Banks fishing schooner was purchased in 1926 by Captain Bob Bartlett of Newfoundland for a series of Arctic scientific expeditions. After Captain Bartlett’s passing in 1946, the schooner was purchased by Captain Henrique Mendes; he renamed her Ernestina, after his daughter. She carried immigrants and cargo from the Cape Verde Islands to the US and back until 1965, making her the last sailing ship in regular service to carry immigrants across the Atlantic to the United States and the last of a series of Cape Verde packets to carry on this trade in the middle years of the 20th century. In 1982 the government of Cape Verde presented Ernestina to the United States in recognition of her remarkable history; she served as a sail training and living history vessel, reaching tens of thousands with her story. Her name was officially changed to Ernestina-Morrissey in 2014 to pay tribute to her full history. Today she is part of the fleet of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, supported by the fundraising Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association.

A closer view. Courtesy SSV Ernestina-Morrissey.

NMHS vice chair Richardo R. Lopes, president of Voyage Digital Media, was on hand for the launch, along with his son, Alessandro, to capture this momentous event for inclusion in the multi-part documentary Sails Over Ice and Seas: The Life and Times of Ernestina-Morrissey. Rick reported on the launch:

The management, crew and freelancers at the Shipyard did a diligent and yeoman’s effort to identify and replace the damaged section of the slipway’s rails, culminating in the successful long-anticipated launch of the Ernestina-Morrissey. We were able to document the two-day event by using eight cameras situated throughout the shipyard, aboard the Ernestina-Morrissey and deployed in the air. The Shipyard’s owner, Andy Tyska; the shipyard’s manager, Eric Graves; and the project’s master shipwright/project manager gave credit to the many dedicated and skilled craftsmen that have and continue to work on the rehabilitation of the Ernestina-Morrissey.

image of schooner Ernestina-Morrissey on the railway prior to being lowered into the water

Voyage Digital Media captured this time-lapse video of Ernestina-Morrissey being lowered into the water.

The documentary film, produced by Voyage Digital Media in partnership with NMHS and with the generous support of Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest and the H. F. Lenfest Fund at Vanguard Charitable, presents the many chapters of Ernestina-Morrissey’s remarkable story in a tapestry of interviews, images, reenactments and captured footage. We can’t wait to share the whole story in this engaging format with viewing audiences.  


Sea History Today is written by Shelley Reid, NMHS senior staff writer. Past issues can be read online by clicking here.

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