South Street Seaport Museum’s Schooner Pioneer Sails Again


Captain Richard Dorfman at the helm of the schooner Pioneer – Photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

This weekend,  the South Street Seaport Museum’s schooner Pioneer set sail again from the seaport in New York’s East River.  After two summers of sitting tied to the dock the venerable old schooner, built of iron in 1885, is again carrying passengers on regular sails in New York harbor.  With all the problems facing the museum,  the Pioneer sailing again is another small, but important, victory.  Recently, we posted about the museum’s success in raising $250,000 to repair the 1893 built, Freedonia class fishing schooner, Lettie G. Howard

Seaport’s Pioneer ship sails into the new season

In the last two years, the South Street Seaport Museum has faced some incredible challenges.  It has lurched from financial collapse in early 2011 to new management and new funding in September 2011. The Museum of the City of New York took over management of the South Street Seaport Museum, under a contract that provided little time and not much money to turn the troubled institution around. Just as they were making progress,  the museum and the entire Seaport District was struck a body blow by major flooding during Hurricane Sandy.  Now the museum is caught up in tough negotiations with a real estate conglomerate, which could also threaten its survival.

What is truly remarkable is, that despite these huge problems, the museum has scored real victories.  The first was on the night of October 29th, when Hurricane Sandy struck,  flooding much of lower Manhattan, including the South Street Seaport.  The museum’s historic ships including windjammers Peking and Wavertree rode out the 14 foot storm surge without damage, due, in large part, to the efforts of the Museum’s Waterfront Director, Captain Jonathan Boulware and his crew of volunteers who rigged storm moorings for the ships. While the buildings ashore were awash in over six feet of oily water, the ships were safe.

In March, the museum’s 1908 built lightship Ambrose returned from a month-long drydock where long deferred maintenance was addressed.  As noted above, the museum also successfully raised $250,000 to repair the schooner  Lettie G. Howard, helped along by a gala benefit concert by Rosanne Cash.

And now the Pioneer is back.  Below is a video by Jame Wong about sailing and volunteering on the Pioneer.

Schooner Pioneer – South Street Seaport Museum



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7 Responses to South Street Seaport Museum’s Schooner Pioneer Sails Again

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Top New York History News | New York History

  2. Imelda Lati says:

    I am from Ascension School located at 220 W 108th Street, NY 10025.
    My 4th grade class had a terrific time last May aboard the Pioneer. It was
    one of the best learning opportunities for them. We were able to get a great discount, and I am wondering if there is a chance of getting the same financial assistance this year.

  3. Rick Spilman says:

    You may wish to contact the Seaport Museum directly at or (212) 732-7678.

  4. Jeff Gerber says:

    Hello Rick Spilman & sailing staff:

    1. Great website! Can we sail as passengers aboard the Schnr PIONEER or other with a) handi access and b) senior discount? We live in NJ and qualify for US Natl Parks Senior Card.

    2. Is Master Malcolm Martin still associated with the museum? I met him when he was sailing the east coast, in Phila. Seaport Museum. He is my distant cousin.

    Thank you for your reply.

    Jeff Gerber, cell 443.603.7514
    Lakewood Harbor, NJ
    Capt. of the Sailing SUNFISH Dinghy SCREACH, bound for your Museum.

  5. Rick Spilman says:

    Unfortunately, I cannot answer your questions. You may wish to contact the museum directly. They can be reached through:

  6. Liz says:

    Captain Malcolm Martin is back as master!

  7. Elena says:

    Hi ALL,

    Please be aware that this is a very unreliable organization who we had unfortunate experience with. We reserved a boat for a birthday party a week in advance, and they canceled on us 1 hour before everyone arrived. 25 people came and had nowhere to go with all food that was prepared. And all we heard was ” I am sorry” which really did do nothing. The party was spoiled, and the refund was issued to the wrong card. This is the most absurd customer service I have ever experienced with in the USA.