Schooner Ernestina – “A once in the lifetime opportunity to preserve our history”

These were the words of New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang at the recent full day event charting a course for the schooner Ernestina.

It seems that the general consensus from the event is that it will take a public/private partnership to keep Ernestina afloat. The key will be to find leadership that will be able to bring together all of the various, diverse, interested parties.  The cost of rehabilitating her is between $3 – 5 million. A tall order for a tall ship.

Here’s a brief post event write up by Dan McDonald for the New Bedford Standard Times. Hundreds mull future of Schooner Ernestina Oct. 31, 2010.

Published by

Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

5 thoughts on “Schooner Ernestina – “A once in the lifetime opportunity to preserve our history””

  1. “The key will be to find leadership that will be able to bring together all of the various, diverse, interested parties.” your quote above is exactly the issue with Ernastina. The forum’s agenda I looked at didn’t address the real issue with her, it’s leadership and structure. Nobody in NB wants to ask that hard question or address it. That’s what got her into the mess in the first place. They need to disolve the commission and place here in a proper Non-profit with real board members who can shake up the fundraising and political influence.

    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting Capt!

      There are definitely some inherent challenges in the current ownership model and call me cynical but the timing of this event, on the eve of a significant election this week, seems interesting. Time will tell if those, especially the politicians who survive the election, will remain committed to finding viable solutions to sustain Ernestina for future generations. Let’s hope so.

    2. I can assure you that the Forum planning committee, the Commission, and the SEMA board of directors are entirely interested in facing up to the governance issue. Rep. Cabral has offered repeated to work on any needed rewrite of the Commission’s governing statute. The DCR Historic Curatorship program outlined at the forum is one alternative for putting the Ernestina in the hands of a non-profit or other entity on a long term basis. This could be SEMA or a collaboration of interested non-profits or even have some for-profit participation.

      The forum focused on the desires people have for the use of the Ernestina in order to focus the story of why she needs to be restored and to identify who may be the strategic partners in doing so. A large gathering as we had would not be a very effective place for thrashing out issues of structure and mechanisms. We certainly did not need people spending the day talking abou the failure of the past or pointing fingers.

      One of the major problems with the present structure is that DCR asserted power over the operations and maintenance of the Enrestina in derogation of the statutory authority of the Commission. At least that is my opinion. That was tolerable when the State was supplying adequate funding but even then kept the Commission from performing its function and facing up to its responsibilities. The other problem has been that the Commission is appointed by the governor (from time to time), an inherently political rather than strategic process. That process has hindered the kind of board of directors development necessary for a successful non-profit. The prior Commission did not do the job needed of making the Ernestina independent of state funding.

      Do remember that the Commission was restructured in the early nineties and given more direct responsibility precisely because previous non-profit operators had foundered. The non-profit which now owns and runs the Pride of Baltimore II was materially assisted by a firm commitment of annual funding from the State of Maryland When the State ultimately failed in its obligation and offered to convey the ship, the non-profit was already established and pretty sound.

      Peter, thank you for covering the forum and the Ernestina. We need the benefit of your experience and the ideas of many as we go forward. Please, keep involved.

      By the way, the timing of the forum had nothing to do with elections. We decided to hold it when we did to have it before the Preservation Summit being held by the City of New Bedford on Nov. 6.

      Fair seas.

      1. Just to make my role clear: I am only an active Schooner Ernestina volunteer. I did serve on the committee which planned the forum. I am neither a Commissioner nor a member of the board of Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association, Inc. and do not speak for either of them nor for DCR.

      2. Thanks for visiting and commenting Chuck. All good points.

        Ernestina is a beautiful ship with an amazing history. It would be a real shame if we, the people of Massachusetts, were not able to find a way to preserve and protect her for our children to experience. Tough economic times don’t make the job any easier, but she’s never really been about doing things easily. Please keep us posted on all developments and let me know how we can help. Godspeed.

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