Ernestina-Morrissey Restoration: Preserving a Vast History to be a Living Educational Tool

Photo by Mitchell Photography

The Ernestina-Morrissey is once again going to hit the water and embark on a new journey. Serving as the State Ship of Massachusetts, she is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Recreation and Conservation in conjunction with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. In 2014, the ship was approved to undergo an extensive restoration by Bristol Marine in Boothbay, Maine. 

A vessel that has lived many lives, the Ernestina-Morrisey was originally a fishing schooner, built for Captain William E. Morrisey in 1894, then known as Morrisey. She was purchased in 1926 by Robert Bartlett, an Arctic explorer who would go on to convert her into an arctic exploration vessel, escorting scientists and students to the Arctic for scientific studies and observation. As Project Manager with Bristol Marine Dennis Gunderson describes,  “No other sailing vessel has come closer to the North Pole than the Ernestina-Morrisey.” 

Following Barlett’s death in 1946, Morrissey was acquired by Captain Henrique Medes who renamed her Ernestina in homage to his daughter. Ernestina sailed to and from Cape Verde Islands and the United States carrying immigrants and goods during a span of seventeen years. She was gifted to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by the Republic of Cape Verde in 1982, before receiving U.S. Coast Guard certification in 1987. In 1990, the Ernestina was named a National Historic Landmark and served for many years as a training ship, and historic museum while visiting various ports along the eastern seaboard.

The Ernestina was renamed the Ernestina-Morrissey in honor of her extensive career and lifespan. The most recent restoration of the historic vessel was announced in 2014, with the goal of preserving her vast history and utilizing her as a living educational tool. 

Photo by Mitchell Photography

With a deep respect for the vessel’s history and craftsmanship, Bristol Marine has taken particular care to manage the restoration according to the vessel’s original specifications utilizing the original drawings, plans, materials, and traditional methods. Gunderson describes,“We are restoring her to better than original condition.” 

Bristol Marine plans to deliver the Ernestina-Morrissey to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy by September 1st of 2021. There, they hope to receive certification for her to be a sailing school vessel where cadets will go out on the water for weeks at a time. Additional plans include obtaining a USCG inspected vessel certification to carry passengers during the summer months, utilizing the platform for fundraising, science students, and charity. 

The Ernestina-Morrisey is returning to her root purpose as an educational vessel, teaching through the storied and diverse voices of her past lives. 

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