Hull to become Rhode Island tall ship

The hull that will become the 207-foot fully rigged tall ship Oliver Hazard Perry was towed into Newport harbor Friday, Oct. 24. The group Tall Ships Rhode Island purchased the hull on September 2 after its initial builders in Amherstburg, Ontario, ran into fundraising problems and had to abandon its effort at building a replica of the ships that fought on Lake Erie in the war of 1812.

From the press release: The 132-foot hull of Rhode Island’s future Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry arrived in Newport today, after being towed 892 miles from its former home in Amherstburg, Ontario. The hull was bought by the non-profit organization Tall Ships Rhode Island (TSRI), Inc., on September 2, 2008, and will be berthed for the winter at Bowen’s Wharf, in Newport’s historic waterfront shopping district.

“It’s on the dock where visitors can get a real feel for what the future of this ship will be,”said Bart Dunbar, TSRI’s Chairman who is also the president of Bowen’s Wharf Company. Dunbar explained that the next phase is to complete the full design of the ship before sending it to a Rhode Island shipyard for construction of the deck and interior, sometime early next Spring. The ship will then return to Newport where its spars, rigging and hardware will be configured and installed. When it is ready to sail in 2011, it will be a 207-foot, three-masted square-rigged Class A Tall Ship-a 21st Century version of the naval vessels used in the Battle of Lake Erie, where Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry commanded a victorious fleet.

“It will not rest as a museum ship at the dock, however,” says Dunbar. “The OIiver Hazard Perry is intended to be a working sail school vessel, with an office, staff and crew, representing all of Rhode Island and supporting itself with educational and sail training programs. The ship will integrate with the school systems, Rhode Island’s marine trades industry and the various waterfront-related programs in the state for both youths and adults.” In the summer, it will sail in New England with trips to Canada and the Great Lakes, while in the winter it will sail in the Caribbean. Plans are for it to play a significant role in the country’s planned Bicentennial Celebration of the War of 1812. 

TSRI projects it will need another $3 million to complete the ship and has embarked on a fund-raising campaign that has thus far been extremely successful, allowing TSRI to purchase the hull for $339,000, a cost which Dunbar says is 25 cents on the dollar for what it cost to originally construct it.

There are 75 Class A (a designation for the largest category) Tall Ships engaged in sail training worldwide and this number is growing as state and private organizations realize the benefits as well as the financial viability of operating a Tall Ship. The only larger Class A sail training ship in America is the Coast Guard’s German-built barque Eagle. Other successful Tall Ships programs include the 140-foot Spirit of South Carolina, the 122-foot Virginia and the 157-foot Pride of Baltimore.

The Oliver Hazard Perry project is supported by the Governor’s office, the Newport County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (NCCVB), and the Newport City Council, among other organizations. “We are the Ocean State, afterall,” said Dunbar, “with a rich maritime history that is intrinsically linked to what we are today. The Oliver Hazard Perry symbolizes our past while giving us unity and focus in the development of Rhode Island’s maritime future.”

For more information on the Oliver Hazard Perry, contact Perry Lewis at the TSRI office, 49B Bowen’s Wharf, Newport, R.I., 02840, tel. 401-841-0080,

By Ocean Navigator