Alabama is a Gloucester-style fishing schooner that was built in 1926 from a Thomas F. McManus design. The ship was a pilot boat for Mobile, Alabama, until she was retired and put up for sale in 1966.
Capt. Robert S. Douglas, owner of a windjammer cruise business named Coastwise Packet Co. bought Alabama and brought her to Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in 1967, envisioning a future in which the schooner would become part of a fleet of ships offering sailing trips and charters. It took almost 30 years for that dream to come to fruition.
With the opening of the Black Dog Tavern in 1971, the Coastwise Packet Co. became Black Dog Tall Ships. The company, which includes the Black Dog retail clothing business, started the program Kid Cruises in 1994 to reach out to children.
On cruises youngsters spend as much as a week aboard Alabama and learn traditional sailing skills. They take on all tasks — cleaning the deck, galley duty, hauling sails and anchor — and learn basic seamanship, navigation, rope work and small-boat handling.
After a three-year rebuild by Five Corners Shipbuilding Co. Alabama became the platform for Black Dog’s educational program.
Her current captain, Douglas’ son Morgan, has skippered Alabama since 2005. He says the schooner is significant because she is “the last large-scale wooden boat project to come out of Vineyard Haven.”
Visit Alabama and schedule your own sail here.