Monday, January 23, 2012
Ships: Tragic Queen
Elissa is a 620 ton three-masted barque who currently calls the port of Galveston in Texas home. She was built in Aberdeen, Scotland and launched in October of 1877, a fact that started out with sad potential. The beautiful merchant sailer was sent to sea just as steamships were coming into their own. Elissa, despite her swift running and fine lines, would never truly rule the waves.
She sailed under Scottish, Norwegian and Swedish colors until finally docking at a salvage yard in Greece where she was set for the scrappers. Through a minor miracle, she was discovered by the Galveston Historical Foundation who saw in her the type of ship that brought goods into their port from around the world. Galveston, of course, has a long history of piracy and privateering that began with Louis Aury and grew to illicit success under the mastery of the Laffite brothers. From the 1820s, Galveston became a haven for gambling and other forms a debauch; a reputation that led her to be christened “The Little Big Easy.” And throughout, ships like Elissa came and went and came back again.
The Historical Foundation purchased her for $40,000 in1975 and did extensive refitting, particularly on her iron and steel hull. Masts of Oregon pine replaced her old timbers, sails were shipped in from Maine and her teak and fir deck and gunnels were lovingly restored. She was re-launched in 1982 and has since become a National Historic Landmark. She is the “official” tall ship of Galveston and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Elissa is inspected by the Coast Guard every two and a half years for seaworthiness. Her last inspection in the summer of 2011 turned up a heartbreaking surprise. Her hull was rotten and so close to rotting through that the Coast Guard declared her unseaworthy. Since Elissa is maintained on donations by volunteers, the $3 million dollars to repair her hull is a staggering expense that is not readily obtainable out of hand. As this article from the Houston Chronicle notes, the Texas Seaport Museum immediately began fundraising. The hope is to have Elissa back in sailing form this year.
Of course, tragedy is unavoidable and is part and parcel of the long history of the sea. Triple P will keep the wish for Elissa’s full recovery close to our hearts, and keep the Brethren informed as her journey continues.
Header: Elissa by Don Scafidi via her official website