Sunday, July 27, 2008
Steve from digital Island Media captured this historic moment while enjoying the Key West waters himself.
Many thanks go out to the community of Key West who helped us achieve our goal to save the ship for years to come.
Mission accomplished, what a ride that was...
After all this work I can only hope that the Board of Directors of the Schooner Western Union Preservation Society keep up the good work.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Historic schooner returns to island home in Key West
The 130-foot Western Union had spent the past four months in a Miami shipyard, undergoing surveys and repairs necessary for Coast Guard certification. The ship returned to the island because a local organization formed to preserve the vessel and keep it home-ported in Key West.
"The Key West flagship is home!" shouted the boat's captain, Lenn Verreau, who has skippered the Western Union for 12 years.
About 150 local officials and residents responded with cheers and applause, and musicians played seafaring songs.
The schooner launched in 1939 and served the Western Union Telegraph Company for 35 years. It is believed to be the world's only surviving sailing cable ship, according to local maritime historians.
"She is the sole remaining sailing representative of the Key West maritime past," said Guy deBoer, board member of the Schooner Western Union Preservation Society.
The boat spent 10 years as a local tour vessel until its previous owners ceased the ship's operations because of maintenance and renovation costs. In late 2007, the boat's owners donated it to the society on the condition that it be restored and remain in Key West.
Board members said they hope the ship will pass Coast Guard inspections in about 30 days so it can resume day sails, sunset cruises and charters to offset operating costs.
A fundraising campaign is under way for its complete restoration.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Reports on our ship in this article.
KEY WEST, Florida Keys -- The last tall ship to be assembled in Key West, the 69-year-old Schooner Western Union, is embarking on a new voyage under the auspices of a grassroots foundation formed to preserve the historic vessel and keep it home-ported in the island city.
The 130-foot Western Union is temporarily dry-docked in a Miami shipyard for surveys and hull and rigging inspections necessary for recertification by the Coast Guard. It is expected to sail home to Key West in February and subsequently undergo Coast Guard safety inspections.
"We still have a little bit of work to do before we can have it ready for the Coast Guard safety inspections and sea trials," said Theo Glorie, board member of the nonprofit Schooner Western Union Preservation Society.
Launched in 1939, Western Union is the last surviving example of a traditional American coasting schooner. It served the Western Union Telegraph Co. for 35 years as a cable-repair vessel and is believed to be the world's only surviving sailing cable ship.
In 1997, Key West's Historic Tours of America obtained Western Union and began operating it for day and sunset sails and charters. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it came to be known as the flagship of Key West.
About 15 months ago, after consistently losing money on the schooner, Historic Tours ceased its excursions and put it up for sale. Interest reportedly came from groups in Tampa and the Cayman Islands, but potential buyers would not guarantee to keep Western Union in Key West.
The problem was solved when the nonprofit organization was formed. Historic Tours' owner Ed Swift promptly donated the vessel under the condition that it be restored and remain in Key West.
Once Western Union is recertified, the society's board hopes to begin offering sunset sails and private charters to help fund its continued preservation and maintenance.
Glorie estimated that the complete restoration will cost somewhere between $800,000 and $1 million. Tasks include replacing the vessel's leaking deck -- itself a $250,000 project.
"That's a big job; we're planning fundraisers and getting the community involved," said Glorie. "We still have a long way to go in order for it to be totally restored, but the trip to Miami was a tremendous step in the right direction."
In addition to launching revenue-generating excursions, the society hopes to make the vessel available to nonprofit organizations for their fundraising efforts and to local schools for educational programs -- providing a whole new purpose and community role for the tall-masted relic of Key West's colorful past.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Our hard work got rewarded, the ship is in a repairable state.
The ribs and hull are in good shape, we are replacing 8 to 10 planks, and are working on the rigging.
In the near future the coast guard expects us to replace the deck, and the covering boards.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The ships surveyor Dave we have hired for the job was a boat captain himself and he assured us that he can tell us for sure if the boat is save enough to make the pass to the Miami boat yard.
Hours was spend by Captain Dave, and by the look on his face it did not look that good.
Dave said that the "turn buckles" where so rotten they would snap with the least amount of wind, the ship is taking on water and most of the chains and ropes are rotten.
He sincerely suggested for us to do the work that needed to be done to the ship to do it here in Key West instead.
The only way he would feel comfortable for us to sail to Miami is with a calm ocean (2 feet swells), a calm breeze (7 knots maximum) and use the engine instead of the sails.
Monday, December 10, 2007
In partner ship with the Tropic Cinema we organized a NIGHT AT THE MOVIES at the
TROPIC CINEMA To Benefit the SCHOONER WESTERN UNION.
We have Fabulous Food generously donated by Santiago's Bodega
We are playing a great Movie called "Deep Water"
Tickets are $25.00 each
The Tropic Cinema is located at 416 Eaton Street in old town Key West
For more info call Theo at 305-304-9438
Monday, December 3, 2007
BY CAMMY CLARK
KEY WEST --
The ''Grand Old Lady'' got a good scrubbing Saturday, the first step toward a stem to stern makeover. But before the 68-year-old gets her engine beds replaced and has some rib work, she's having a fundraising party.
After all, it takes money for an aging wooden schooner to look and function her best, especially after sitting idle for 15 months in Key West Harbor with a big ''For Sale'' sign.
On Sunday, Pepe's Café and the Waterfront Market are throwing a ''Save the Union Festival'' to raise money for the restoration of the Schooner Western Union, which served for 35 years as an underseas telegraph cable-laying vessel and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
''Many people have the desire to save parts of what make Key West special,'' festival organizer Jeff Salzmann said. ``She's worth saving to keep in Key West forever.''
Sarah Lee Guthrie, daughter of Arlo Guthrie and granddaughter of Woody Guthrie, is headlining the festival along with guitarist Johnny Irion. Local talent includes Michael McCloud and Chris Flowers, the Unpaid Bar Tabs, Caffeine Carl and the Mile Marker 24 Band.
Proceeds for the festival, which runs 2 to 9 p.m. in the Historic Seaport District of Key West, will go to the nonprofit Schooner Western Union Preservation Society.
It was launched three months ago by Dutch entrepreneur Theo Glorie, owner of a coffee shop a block from the ship's docking spot.
The schooner's previous owner, Historic Tours of America, had the schooner on the market for more than a year, with a $600,000 price tag.
Company president Ed Swift said several groups were interested, including one from the Cayman Islands and another from Tampa, but none would guarantee the schooner would stay in Key West.
Swift said it was so important to him to keep the schooner in his hometown that his company paid off the mortgage and donated the boat to Glorie's nonprofit group.
Glorie said he expects the society will need between $300,000 and $400,000 for the complete restoration, but he won't know more precisely until later this month, after the 130-foot, 90-ton ship is undergoes its annual Coast Guard inspection.
''She's actually in pretty good shape,'' said program advisor Bob Jason, whose diving students at the Florida Keys Community College conducted a preliminary underwater survey of the boat three weeks ago.
Nine of those students spent Saturday in scuba gear and armed with clam rakes and other tools to clean the hull from 15 months worth of algae, barnacles and other marine crustaceans that attached to the outside of the hull and can freeze rudders, clog water-intake valves and seize props.
It was part of the preparation for its journey next week to the Merrill-Stevens Dry Dock Co., situated along the Miami River, for its inspection and survey.
The Western Union, the oldest working schooner in the United States, has a rich history dating to 1939, when its crews laid the first of more than 30,000 miles of underseas telegraph cable in the Caribbean, including from Key West to Cuba.
RUN-IN WITH CUBANS
During that time, the schooner had a run-in with a Cuban gunboat, an incident that was documented in a 1961 Time magazine article. The gunboat drew alongside the Western Union and ordered it into the Cuban port of Baracoa, even though the schooner was well outside Cuban territorial waters.
The Western Union's captain sent a message to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo. Within 10 minutes, two U.S. jets buzzed over the ships, ``encouraging several Cuban 6-26 light bombers in the area to withdraw.''
Four hours later, a U.S. destroyer arrived. The Cubans got the message, shouting to the schooner: ``Key West.''
From 1974 to 1984, a local group of businessmen and maritime historians cared for the boat. During this time, the schooner transported Cubans during the Mariel boat lift; musician Jimmy Buffett was a frequent passenger.
But in 1984, Key West lost its Grand Old Lady. Philadelphia-based Vision Quest bought the schooner, renamed it ''New Way'' and used it for a program for troubled adolescents.
''I didn't expect to see it again,'' Swift said. ``But when we had a chance in the late 1990s to get it back, we had to. I thought one chance in a bazillion it would be available again.''
Historic Tours of America purchased the schooner, rechristened it Western Union, and ran sunset and day sails and charter trips.
''I've literally performed over 1,200 weddings,'' said Lenn Verreau, the Western Union's captain for the past 12 years. ``Done a lot of funerals, too. We've shot quite a few people out of a cannon. It's kind of a neat thing. Put their ashes in a canister and shoot them into the next world.''
While patrons loved sailing on the historic boat, it lost about $100,000 a year, Swift said, forcing him to sell.
Glorie said about $100,000 has been raised so far. And, according to their business plan, he believes that after the initial fundraising for restoration, the schooner can break even and provide at least two trips a month for children's activities, charitable events and educational outreach programs.
Swift said it is possible because the group's eligibility for state and federal grants and ability to attract private donations that a for-profit operation could not.
He also said the schooner's future would become more secure if the state designated the Western Union as its flagship.
''Twice the Senate and House of Representatives passed it, but both times it was vetoed by (then Gov. Jeb) Bush,'' Swift said. ``It's a very important piece of Florida's maritime history and should be preserved.''
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Everywhere we go to ask for support we are being applauded for our efforts and we generously received gifts of all kinds for our silent auction.
Every restaurant, water sport company or art studio we visited donated to our party's fund raiser.
All the artist and entrepreneurs from the sunset celebration at Mallory square became part of the awareness party by donating generously to our silent auction.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Time Magazine reported this article
Friday, Apr. 14, 1961
If bullets were made of paper, the U.S. and Cuba would have annihilated each other last week. The Castro dictatorship charged that U.S. planes "violated" Cuban airspace 49 times in a single month, that a U.S. cruiser fired on a Cuban plane three weeks ago, that a rebel flare-up in Oriente province was "fed ideologically, economically and militarily" by the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo. The U.S., in turn, charged that Havana had maltreated 22 imprisoned Americans by failing not only to provide "needed foods and medicines," but by preventing the neutral Swiss from helping the prisoners.
To these undiplomatic exchanges. President Kennedy added a broadside drafted by Harvard Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., now a White House aide. The 36-page White House paper paid respects to the professed original purpose of the Cuban revolution, but charged that "what began as a movement to enlarge Cuban freedom has been perverted into a mechanism for the destruction of free insti tutions, more drastic than the most ruthless of the hemisphere oldtime military dictatorships."
The Castro Cubans, who knew the accuracy of the indictment, paid it the tribute of calling it "trash cunningly dreamed up by eggheads"; but unfortunately, it seemed to miss the rest of the hemisphere almost completely. The text went unpublished in Bogota and Caracas, drew not a single editorial in Lima, Rio or Buenos Aires.
More than mere talk was involved in an incident last week, six miles at sea north of the Oriente coast, when a Cuban gunboat drew alongside the 96-ton American cable-repair schooner Western Union and ordered it into the Cuban port of Baracoa. Well outside Cuban territorial waters, the unprepossessing Western Union moved slowly to comply, while the skipper sent off a quick message that reached the Guantanamo Naval Base.
Within ten minutes, two swept-wing U.S. jets whooshed over, buzzed the Western Union at high speed, encouraging several Cuban 6-26 light bombers in the area to withdraw. Four hours later, as the Western Union was half a mile off Baracoa, a U.S. destroyer arrived, openly blinker signaled the Western Union an offer of full protection. Minutes passed, and then the Cubans approached the schooner, shouting "Key West." The Western Union eased off for home. The tight moment spelled a clear message: to rescue the Western Union, the U.S. was prepared to use force.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Theo Glorie Chairman of the Project Schooner Western Union commented “It's always great when a community comes together and gives each other a hand, as this was the case with our Key West Flagship. “ Adding to that Bob Jasen FKCC Director of Marine Propulsion and Marine Environmental Studies said “It is another way to build upon the partnerships between FKCC and the community it serves.”
The last tall ship to be built in Key West in 1939, the 130 foot schooner was the last sailing ship to be tasked with laying communication cable beneath the Caribbean Sea. The Schooner Western Union has been docked at that location for a little over a year and a lot of sea life has been growing below the waterline of the ship.
Bob Jasen will also be one of the instructor divers participating in the work on the wooden hull Schooner December 1st 2007 the other FKCC Divers are:
Conner Dawson, Daniel Desmond, Tim Maleport, William Miller, Jeff Parenteau, April Paterson, James Proctor, David Riser, Tim Seaman, Daniel Tolbert.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
The board of directors is put in place to oversee the project, raise the fund to finance the project and meet ones a month to talk strategy.
We needed people with a local resume, an history of stepping on the plate when times get though.
The sole purpose of the board we formed is to help us restore our ship.
We decided on;
Captain Frank Holden, Michael Browning, Chris Belland, Heather Carruthers, Guy Deboer, Ed Anderson, Roger Bernstein, Paul Whortington and Bill Semich.
Thank you all for joining, now lets get to work....
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
The job to recertify the ship with the coastguard is quit large so I have decided to cut it up in pieces.
1. Awareness party and fundraiser at the dock of the ship
2. Prepare ship for Miami Boatyard Merrill Stevens
3. Negotiate acceptable restoration plan with Coast Guard
4. Return to Key West
5. Re certification of the ship by the U.S. Coast Guard.
We had a few electrical and plumbing jobs to take care of, we repaired the switches, wires, lamps. And all plumbing issues got well taken care of by John our ship plumber/electrician.
We also have Allen our carpenter take care of a few wood rot problems.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
The schooner Western Union has had for twelve year the same Captain on the helm, Captain Lenn Verraue has been the leading man.
The man knows his Ship...
I have never seen a Captain so devoted to his ship and crew as Captain Lenn.
The preservation society considers themselves very lucky to have the right man on the wheel
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Western Union's new life is great news for island
The recent announcement that the Western Union has been donated to a new nonprofit and will stay on the island is great news indeed.
Of all the "tall ships" — large wooden sailboats — that offer sunset sails and other tours from Key West's waterfront, this is the one with the strongest claim by far to our island's history.
The Western Union was the last schooner built on the island, made in 1939 as a cable tender to maintain the communication between Key West and Cuba. The age of sail had passed by then but her British-born captain, who oversaw her building, was old school and wanted to be able to sail if the engines failed.
The result, built from Cayman mahogany and Florida pine, was a stout workhorse of a ship that was skippered by two generations of Steadmans. For years it carried them and their crews as they fished up and repaired cables from the depths of the Florida Straits.
The ship served until 1974 and then went out of use, serving a second life as the New Way, owned by a nonprofit that helped troubled youth. In 1997, Key West business owners Ed Swift and Paul and Evalena Worthington brought the ship back to Key West Bight and restored it. The state of Florida named it the official flagship of Key West.
The Western Union has not been a success as a tourist venture, but it deserves every chance and community support as a nonprofit venture. The purpose of buying the Key West Bight was to preserve some remnant of the island's working waterfront.
The Western Union, which was originally owned by Thompson Enterprises, is a perfect physical embodiment of this legacy, as well as a graceful presence at the docks increasingly occupied by big-money pleasure craft.
We congratulate Historic Tours of America for making this donation and keeping the Western Union as part of the community and we wish fair winds and following seas to the historic and civic minded group that has taken on the Western Union's latest mission: keeping the island's waterfront heritage alive.
— The Citizen
Monday, October 1, 2007
Cooke Communications LLC, Cypress House, Inc., John and Janet van Tuyl, William Semich, Finbar Gittleman, Propeller Club, Marge Smith, Jackie and Jamie Gwidt, Eric Nelson, Fran and Bob Decker, Gardens Hotel, Ray Cambell, Dave Oatway, Ed Swift, Bascom and Beth Grooms, Joan Pain, Mel Fisher Museum, Joe Bement, Roger Bernstein, John Strain, Michael Browning, Bill Reese, Daran Oppenheimer, Richard Manley, Eric and Catherine Landen, Tommy and Kim Mack and all others that so generously pledged there support to the preservation of our Key West Flag Ship.
Together we raised $ 99,245.00
The Ship is ours...
Sparred Length 130'
Length on Deck 92'
Sail Area 4800sq. ft.
Launched Key West, Florida,
7 April 1939, 4:00PM
Builder Heber Elroy Arch
Master G.R. Steadman
The Western Union was built to replace another schooner, the John W. Atkins, in the servicing of undersea telegraph cables. She was owned by Thompson Enterprises of Key West, Florida and leased to the Western Union Telegraph Company from 1939 to 1974.
In 1938 Thompson Enterprises contracted Mr. Heber Elroy Arch to supply the hardwood and the timber and to build the vessel. The Arches framed the ship, putting in her all the ribs, the stem, the sternpost. The timbers, or frames, were of Cayman Mahogany. Her planking was built of 2 -inch long Leaf yellow pine brought over from Florida where some of the best stands of this presently endangered species grew. She was purposefully built for Western Union as an auxiliary cable laying schooner. Western Union had two engines to maintain her steadiness at sea in laying cable.
In his own words Heber Elroy Arch explains the Cayman Islands aspect of Western Union's construction. "This is what happened. They contracted with me to supply the hardwood for her. I supplied the hard timber for the ribs, the stem, the sternpost. I framed her completely here in what they call a breakdown rig. Then I took that apart again, and I took her to Key West, Florida. Then set her up, put all the ribs and everything up; and then we finished her in Key West. "The keel wasn't laid here.. all her ribs were made up and fitted and taken down, marked and shipped to Key West. There, the keel was built and we put up all the ribs and stem and stuff bolted all through. The masts were Oregon Fir."
The vessel used to take the pre-constructed materials to Key West was the A. M. Adams, a 130-foot Caymanian Turtle Schooner owned by Thompson Enterprises. Though Mr. Elroy contracted the work and did most of the initial construction, his brother Loxley finished the vessel in Key West with five other Caymanians and four men from Key West.
From 1974 until 1984 the Western Union was restored, preserved and operated by a group of Key West businessmen and maritime historians.
In 1984 the Western Union was purchased by Vision Quest who renamed her the New Way. The ship was used in a program to help troubled adolescents learn honor, self-discipline and a work ethic. In 1997 she returned to Key West and her original name was restored.
The Schooner Western Union has spent the last ten years offering day sails, sunset sails and private charters under the stewardship of Historic Tours of America.
Mr. Ed Swift, CEO of Historic Tours of America shared our passion for the ship and loved our ideas.
Six meetings followed... the sale price of the ship went from $900,000 to $600,000 at the first meeting to $400,000 with owner financing in the second....
Negotiations went on for two months.
We got our wish, we got the ship donated to our organization.
Historic Tours of America a key west attraction company believed in our passion for the project, Mr. Swift promised to donate the ship to our society if;
We proof to Mr. Swift that we can find enough enthusiasm in the community of Key West, and show to him that we can raise $100,000 in pledged donations. Money needed to maintain the ship and pay her expenses for the first 5 months to come.
A tall order...
Guy deBoer who is a local real estate agent owns a boat here in Key West which he takes out on the pristine waters of our Island on a regular basis, his catamaran hulled powerboat is a familiar site here in the Key West bight. Guy loves sailing and competed in a few great sailing events. Guy invited me for a sunset cruise on his "Miranda" it was a beautiful night as usual and the drive home came way to soon.
When Guy piloted the boat in to the Key West Bight he made a suggestion saying that I should buy the Schooner Western Union.
Theo, he said, you are the only person I know that can rally the people together to restore this unique part of Key west History.
For $900,000 you can own this ship... I can set you up with an appointment to talk to the owners of the ship. he said...
The next morning Jeff Salzman, A local Key West ships man who lived her in the Key West Bight, entered our Coffee Plantation Coffee Shop, Jeff has been living the boat life for as long as he can remember. Jeff takes credit for the September 11th memorial and peace concert here in Key West, which he organized after the Sept 11 attacks. His desire to do good for the community is very inspiring and addictive. Theo, he said, think of all the good things we can do with this ship...
The educational value, an fund raising tool for other non for profits. Or think about the idea as the Flag ship of Key West how much fun the people of Key West can have with there own City ship...
I was convinced now where do we find $900,000 I asked.
Don't worry, Jeff said, we are going to try to get the ship for free. and this is how we do that.
This is our plan.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
In August 2007 the Schooner Western Union the Key West Flagship was sitting at the dock that she has occupied for the past ten years. Historic tours of
The last 10 years has been very ruff on the ship, lack of maintenance, up keep and working for the corporate world left a large mark on the current condition of the ship.
Her Coast Guard inspection yard date has passed and her Coast Guard Certificate of Operation will expire on December 31st, 2007. In order to re certify her, extensive work is needed. Besides the lack of the ships normal maintenance the following items need serious attention.
The deck is leaking and needs to be replaced, some of the deck beams need replacing, several ribs are in need of replacement and numerous planks need to be replaced. The transom is in need of repair, the engine beds need replacing, the jib boom needs replacing as do the shroud cables. She also needs new covering board and rail cap. The cost to do these repairs is estimated to be between $400,000 and $1,000,000.
With donated materials the cost of repairing the ship could be reduced greatly.