May/June Issue 234: The long saga of a schooner


One cannot help but think of the great captain Robert “Bob” Bartlett when the name of the schooner Effie M. Morrissey/Ernestina is mentioned. Although the most famous of the ship’s owners and captains, his time aboard represents only a fraction of what this great schooner has accomplished.

The two-masted schooner Effie M. Morrissey was laid up at the James & Tarr shipyards of Essex, Mass., in 1894. Built for the offshore fisheries to work either as a hand-liner or a seiner, Effie was 120 gross tons with an unsparred length of 93.6 feet and a beam of 23.8 feet, draft 10.2 feet. The cost was $16,000 and Effie was built in an astounding four months for Captain William E. Morrissey and named for the captain’s daughter. The schooner worked the dangerous waters around Newfoundland, Labrador and Nova Scotia.  

Under different owners, Effie fished until 1914. The vessel was eventually sold to Captain “Bob” Bartlett, a well-known arctic explorer. Bartlett was contracted by the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution and other museums to make trips north. 

In 1926 the hull was sheathed with greenheart, a dense South American wood, and a diesel was installed.

Captain Bob Bartlett passed away in 1946 and Effie was sold in New York where she was scuttled after catching fire. Despite the damage, the vessel was so well built that she was raised, repaired and sold again to Henrique Mendes for carrying passengers and freight from Cape Verde to New Bedford. The engine was removed and the name changed to Ernestina, after Mendes’ daughter. The vessel was still carrying freight and passengers until 1964. By the 1970s, the ship was in disrepair and her future was uncertain. After a massive and expensive refit, Ernestina sailed for the U.S. to celebrate the 1976 bicentennial. Unfortunately, the vessel got caught in heavy seas 13 miles off the U.S. coast. Her rig was chopped away and a new set of sails was lost. 

The ship was restored again after a four-year effort. She received a USCG certificate in 1987 and began work as a training ship. Time caught up with the vessel and the Coast Guard pulled her certificate. The ship is now being restored at Boothbay Harbor Shipyard.

Let’s join Captain Bob in the north preparing for a noon sight. From the latitude LOP, an E.P. can be created based on the previous dead reckoning. Then, a new DR is started from that point. 

For our problem, the day is April 15. We will be using the 2016 Nautical Almanac. Bartlett is going through the narrow and dangerous Strait of Belle Isle. His DR is 51° 18’ N by 56° 48’ W. The height of eye is 15 feet. The Strait of Belle Isle separates Labrador from Newfoundland. Captain Bob takes a lower limb sight of the sun through a lucky break in the clouds. There are very strong currents in the Strait of Belle Isle, so the mariner has to pay attention.

A. What is the time of LAN in GMT at the DR position?
B. With an Hs of 48° 32’, what is the Ho?
C. Using a GMT of 1600, what is the calculated latitude of Effie M. Morrissey at the time of the sight?

A. Time of LAN is 15:47:12
B. Ho is 48° 43.3’
C. Latitude is 51° 21.7’ N

By Ocean Navigator