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
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.