The April Smithsonian Magazine features photos of the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry and an article titled “Building a War of 1812 Warship.” One can only imagine what Oliver Hazard Perry would have thought of the new ship that bears his name. After having had the Lawrence, his first ship at the Battle of Put-in-Bay in 1813, shot out from under him, he would certainly appreciate the new ship’s steel hull. The twin engines and bow thruster, hidden beneath the waterline, would have amazed him and the electronics would have surely seemed like black magic, (which at times, I believe they are.)
Oliver Hazard Perry, the U.S naval officer who won a decisive victory against the Royal Navy on Lake Erie during the War of 1812—“We have met the enemy and they are ours,” he declared—would have appreciated the irony. An extraordinary new sailing ship was supposed to be a replica of a British warship that his flotilla captured. But when the Canadian group behind the venture ran out of money, enthusiasts in Rhode Island bought the unfinished 138-foot-long steel hull and named it after Perry, an Ocean State native. Six years and more than $10 million later, the three-masted, 20-sail tall ship will launch this summer from the Newport Shipyard. And while it’s the first vessel of its kind to be built in the United States since 1903, it’s also fitted with 21st-century technology, such as twin six-cylinder backup engines.
When completed this summer, the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry will be the first ocean-going full-rigged ship to be built in the U.S. in over 100 years and will be the largest civilian sail training vessel in America. With a sparred length of 200 feet, she will carry 14,000 square feet of sail on three masts. Based in Newport, SSV Oliver Hazard Perry will be Rhode Island’s official sailing education vessel and flagship non-profit maritime campus, offering experience-based, core learning opportunities to a diverse student population, including those with disabilities.