Ernestina across the Labrador Sea

Nov/Dec 2002

In more than 100 years, the schooner Ernestina has done just about everything a schooner can do. Although built as a Gloucester, Mass., fisherman, Ernestina has also carried explorers to the Arctic, carried passengers from the Cape Verde Islands, and worked as a school ship. This is a vessel that has had a long and lucky life.

This past summer, the glorious schooner almost met its end on a routine voyage across Long Island Sound when the keel bolts worked loose, allowing water to flood through a gaping seam between the keel and the garboard strakes. The Coast Guard flew in pumps, and the vessel was safely escorted to Greenport, N.Y., where a patch was applied. No one was injured. The vessel was slated for haulout later in the summer.

Ernestina was born Effie M. Morrissey, built by Willard Burnham of Essex, Mass., and launched in February 1894. It is a big schooner, 120 tons, 94 feet long, with a 24-foot beam. The mainsail is huge; the boom is 68 feet long, and the mainmast is 74 feet.

The vessel was built for the Wonson Co. of Gloucester and Capt. William E. Morrissey, who named the schooner for his daughter. Effie M. Morrissey made its first trip to the Grand Banks in March 1894 and arrived back in Gloucester with 250,000 lbs of salted cod. In November of the same year, it came home with 320,000 lbs of salt cod. The ship was not only fast but a moneymaker as well.

Effie M. Morrissey sailed under different owners and finally ended up in the hands of Harold Bartlett of Newfoundland. Bartlett sold the ship to his brother Capt. Bob Bartlett, the well-known Arctic explorer.

Bartlett refit the ship, adding a big engine, and readied it for the ice. In the 1920s, he took it north to Greenland and beyond on scientific voyages.

Effie returned to Gloucester in 1944. Soon after, it caught fire and sank in New York, but was refloated, repaired and put into the trans-Atlantic packet service carrying passengers from the Cape Verde Islands to Providence, R.I. It was at that time that the name of the ship was changed to Ernestina. It worked in that trade until the 1960s. Eventually the ship was donated by the Cape Verdean people to the United States. Ernestina now operates as a school ship out of New Bedford.

Let’s join Capt. Bartlett on an Arctic trip. We will be using the 2002 Nautical Almanac.

It is July 10, and Bartlett is departing Cape St. John, Newfoundland, bound for Kap Farvel in Greenland. The departure position is 50° N by 55° 30′ W. Kap Farvel is at 60° N by 44° W. Bartlett lays out a True course of 32°. Variation is 25° W, and deviation on this heading is 5° E.

A: What is his compass course?B: Bartlett streams his log at 0900 on July 10. The ship is soon making 12 knots with all lowers set, reaching on a port tack. After traveling 360 nm, what day and time is it?C: Two hours later, at DR 56° N by 52° 34′ W, Bartlett calculates the time for civil twilight. What time in GMT will civil twilight be at that position?

By Ocean Navigator