- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

GLOUCESTER, Mass. (AP) - After 27 years of off-and-on work, and after an estimated $5 million renovation and reconstruction project, Gloucester’s schooner Adventure has gained clearance for carrying passengers on sailing trips up to 20 miles out to sea.

The Adventure, built in 1926 and one of just five original Essex-built fishing schooners still in existence, received final clearance to launch charter sailing trips from the U.S. Coast Guard through a final certificate of inspection issued Monday.

Backers of the project are wasting no time celebrating: the Adventure hosted an open house June 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its base of operations at Maritime Gloucester on Harbor Loop.

“This is the final step in a labor of love and determination that’s lasted since the ship came here in 1988,” Adventure Capt. Stefan Edick, who also serves as the Adventure corporation’s executive director. “And we want to celebrate her and share her with the community right away.”

The final Coast Guard inspection certificate means the Adventure can now take on passengers for hire- whether for education-based trips or for other types of charters, Edick said.

“Our operational plans are still evolving,” Edick added. “And this is an enormous transition for this organization; it goes from a static restoration project to a dynamic sailing ship. But our goal here first and foremost- and it starts with (today’s) open house -is to share the ship and its heritage with the community.”

That heritage is extensive.

From the day the Adventure hit the water at the Essex boat yard on Sept. 15, 1926, to the day it returned from fishing Georges Banks for the last time in 1953, the vessel was a workhorse of Gloucester’s historic schooner fleet.

The Adventure was the last sailing ship to fish the traditional grounds of the banks from Newfoundland to Nantucket- where a good week’s catch of cod, haddock and halibut was about 150 tons. Despite carrying a sailing rig, diesel engine, and 14 dories, Adventure was also considered an exceptionally fast and able vessel -a “highliner” that landed nearly $4 million worth of cod and halibut during her fishing career.

Since its restoration, the Adventure has hosted a number of educational programs with the maritime center, and will continue to do so, Edick noted. Recent cultural council grants, for example, have gone toward converting the old fish hold in the 122-foot, twin-mast knockabout schooner into a learning center, complete with onboard marine science lab facilities.

But the new certification raises the vessel’s versatility, with plans to offer charter tours of four hours. Edick said a four-hour tour at-sea would cost $3,000- though rates would be lower for nonprofit and educational groups. The ship is now licensed to carry up to 65 passengers and a crew of 10 to sea. The capacity for hosting on-board events at the dock- such as weddings and other gatherings -will be 80, Edick said.

The Adventure’s full certification is also seen as a boost for Gloucester and its tourism and cultural economies.

“This is terrific- it’s terrific that the Adventure has been brought back, and can now be an ambassador for the city,” said David Rhinelander, co-chairman of the Gloucester Historical Commission and a member of the Adventure board.

He also sees the Adventure as making visits and offering showcase tours at other cities’ tall ships events.

“And it would be the Adventure Gloucester- think of what can do for promoting our city,” he said.

The addition of a free-sailing, passenger-carrying Adventure also means the harbor is host to three touring schooners- joining Harold A. Burnham’s Ardelle, which is also based at Maritime Gloucester, and the schooner Thomas E. Lannon, a short run down Rogers Street at Seven Seas Wharf.

Edick said he doesn’t see the Adventure, in its transitioning mission, as bringing more business “competition” to those vessels, which also offer charter tours and public sailing trips.

“I think of us as collaborating with them on educational projects, and in other way,” Edick said.

Kay Ellis, co-owner of the Lannon- which is captained by her husband, Tom -said she agrees with the idea of collaborating in raising Gloucester’s profile as schooner central.

“We’re totally on board with that,” she said, “and they’ve always had the educational bent in their programs, which is fine.”

Ellis said, however, she questions the Adventure’s new venture into offering and promoting charter trips that compete with the existing schooners- most notably sunset charters, weddings and other such presentations.

“That’s a change in their (educational) mission,” she said, “and for them to be competing like that after getting the use of taxpayer money, I do very much wonder about that.

“But we’re all about bringing recognition to Gloucester as the schooner capital of America,” she added. “As far as that goes, the more the merrier.”

Edick said that has been the spirit behind the Adventure project from the time the restoration project was first hatched in 1988.

“This project is a testament to ours and Gloucester’s heritage, and the preservation of this schooner that has inspired people for decades.”

The Learning Center remains a work in progress, he said, and there is still restoration work to be done on the captain’s cabin, among other fine-tuning.

“The big thing now,” he said, “is for people to come see it, come aboard, and enjoy it.”


Information from: Gloucester (Mass.) Daily Times, https://www.gloucestertimes.com



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