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Buyer sought for Bridgeport’s Black Pearl

Used for sailtraining at regional aquaculture high school, the 72-foot brigantine needs renovation

Used for sailtraining at regional aquaculture high school, the 72-foot brigantine needs renovation

A Connecticut organization is looking for a new home for the Black Pearl, the founding ship of the American Sail Training Association.

The Aquaculture Foundation in Bridgeport, which has owned the 72-foot brigantine for nearly 10 years, says the foundation does not have the funding to restore the vessel and can no longer afford to maintain her.

“We would love to find a good owner for the Black Pearl, someone who could restore her to her former elegance and someone who appreciates her rightful place in American history,” says foundation president Wendell Corey.

Built in 1948 by Newport, R.I., shipwright Lincoln Vaughn, Black Pearl is a wooden hermaphrodite brigantine with traditional square sails, as well as the more modern fore and aft sails. Vaughn used Black Pearl as his personal yacht, then sold it in 1959 to wealthy Newport resident Barclay Warburton.

In the 1970s, Warburton used the tall ship to promote the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City by docking at the museum’s pier for music festivals. The ship was also the namesake for Warburton’s Newport waterfront restaurant.

Warburton sailed Black Pearl to Europe for the first OpSail race. In 1974, he organized ASTA, an organization that strives for the preservation of maritime heritage in North America. After his death, the yacht was willed to the Newport-based ASTA. After several subsequent owners, the Aquaculture Foundation purchased her in 1993 to use for educational programs.

The foundation supports the Bridgeport Regional Vocational Aquaculture School, a regional high school devoted to marine science and trades. Black Pearl is used for the school’s sailtraining program. Corey says more than 2,400 students have sailed on the ship, learning lessons about the sea as well as leadership, self-confidence and team-building.

“It’s been a labor of love,” says Corey.

For the past four years, Black Pearl has sailed off Bridgeport during the warmer months in the school year. In the summer, the ship is based at Block Island Maritime Institute. During the winter, she is kept in storage at Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport.

Corey says the Foundation has maintained her and spent more than $100,000 on repairs. She has a new stern and horn timber, Corey says. Though seaworthy, a shipwright conducted a survey in 2001 and determined she will eventually need extensive repairs. Corey says a total refit would cost around $400,000.

The organization hopes to receive offers between $150,000 and $175,000. The foundation says it will continue to support other boats used by students in the Bridgeport school’s sailing program.

Inquiries can be sent to Wendell Corey, Aquaculture Foundation, 902 West River St., Milford, CT, 06460.