Skip to main content

Work to begin on Bermuda schooner

Inspired by traditional Bermudian vessels, the 88-footer will be used for sail-training

More than seven years ago, a group of Bermuda sailors dreamed of building a tall ship that would offer sail training to the island’s youth. A non-profit foundation was formed, and a fund-raising drive was launched.

In March the Bermuda Sloop Foundation signed a $3.3 million contract with Rockport (Maine) Marine to build an 88-foot (LOD) three-masted Bermuda-rigged schooner. The group spent three years on the design concept.

“We wanted it to be historically significant,” says Alan Burland, chairman of the foundation. “Historically, it needed to be something Bermudians would rally around.”

The vessel also had to accommodate large groups of kids and equipment. “It needed to be a floating classroom,” he says.

Designed by Langan Design Associates of Newport, R.I., the sail-training vessel was inspired by traditional Bermudian vessels like the Bermuda schooners built in the mid-1800s. The historic schooners evolved from the Royal Navy Shamrock class and the 18th-century Bermuda sloop.

Shipbuilding in Bermuda boomed during the 18th and 19th centuries, as Bermuda-built vessels, made from native cedar, gained an international reputation for swiftness, maneuverability and durability. The Bermuda-built schooner Pickle, purchased by the British for naval warfare, was a significant force in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Because the schooner is designed to meet various missions it is not an exact replica or reproduction, though its low-slung hull shape and three raked masts capture the essence of the bygone era, according to the foundation. The hull will be cold-molded, and the masts built from carbon fiber.

“The original Bermuda sloop was just too hairy to sail for trainees,” says Burland.

The foundation raised about $3.6 million for the project through corporate and individual donations. The project is dedicated to the shipbuilders and seafarers who sustained the small Atlantic island for 250 years, according to the foundation.

The schooner, which can accommodate 30 teenagers at a time, will have daylong and extended voyages. The vessel will spend summers overseas participating in tall-ship races and rallies, according to the foundation, and might participate in such other events as the Newport-Bermuda Race, Marion-Bermuda Race and Charleston-Bermuda Race.

The 112-foot schooner (sparred length) is Rockport Marine’s largest undertaking, according to owner Taylor Allen. He says he was interested in the project because of the group’s mission. “It’s a great group, a great effort,” says Allen. “It’s more than just a yacht.”

Construction is to begin in June, and Web cams will be installed so people can monitor the progress, according to Burland. Allen hopes to launch the vessel by spring 2006, and the foundation plans to offer sail-training beginning in September of that year.; n