HEAVE HO!: Kenny Quesenberry, a volunteer crew member from Wilmington, Del., pulls rope from the mast as the crew prepares to cast off Monday in Galveston. The Elissa was built in 1877, one of three ships from that era still operational in the U.S.
Chronicle Suburban Editor Pete McConnell contributed to this report.
1877 condition in Galveston and it was opened to public tours at Galveston's Pier 22 in 1982 after a restoration costing about $7 million.
Although scores of volunteers spend thousands of hours each year painstakingly maintaining the 129-year-old vessel and about 50,000 people pay to visit the ship at the Texas Seaport Museum annually, the foundation struggles with the expense of maintaining an authentic 19th-century sailing vessel, said Marsh Davis, the historical foundation's executive director.
Costs a concern
The foundation is talking to consultants about the feasibility of establishing a multimilliondollar endowment to help cover maintenance costs, Davis said Monday. No decision to launch an endowment campaign has been made, he said.
"The ship is a wonderful resource but extremely expensive and we want to ensure the longterm future of the vessel as an actual sailing ship," Davis said.
The ship has sailed several days a year most years since 1982. In 1986, Elissa participated in the parade of tall ships from around the world that gathered in New York's harbor to celebrate the centennial of the Statue of Liberty. Elissa had docked in New York in 1884, two years before the statue was erected.
Monday's trip into the Gulf of Mexico was the first of several scheduled trips the ship will make to sea through April 4.
The so-called "day-sails" reward volunteers' work.
"This is an incredible example of maritime history," volunteer Monica Schmiz said of Elissa, at the same time bemoaning the dwindling knowledge of tall-ship handling among present-day mariners due to technological advances. "This is a case in which you use your brain, knowledge of the winds, the seas and the tides."
Volunteer Sharon Varble, a retired air traffic controller, found the deck work hard but rewarding.
"I've always loved to sail and I feel a kinship with it," Varble said of the ship. "It's lovely. But I never thought I'd get so dirty in my life."
The ship, one of only three pre-20th century squareriggers in the U.S. restored to full sailing capability, sails with a licensed captain and officers and a trained volunteer crew. The ship has been declared a National Historic Landmark.
Built in Scotland
The three-masted squarerigger was built in Aberdeen, Scotland, and spent 20 years delivering cargos around the world as a British merchant ship before being sold in 1897 to a Norwegian company and being renamed the Fjeld. In 1911, the ship was sold again, renamed the Gustav and handed down through a series of Swedish, Finnish and Greek owners.
In the 1950s, the vessel was known to have been used to smuggle untaxed cigarettes between Italy and the former Yugoslavia, then later taken out of service and docked in Greece. [email protected]