With repairs complete, Amistad to sail again

Mystic — With its extensive repairs just about complete, the schooner Amistad is set to depart Mystic Seaport within the next week or so for New London, where its six-man crew, including new captain Tucker Yarrow, will spend time training.

Len Miller of Essex, the chairman of Discovering Amistad, the new nonprofit organization running the ship, said the ship’s new engine and sails have been installed and other repairs completed.

The educational program also has been completed and school groups are signing up to visit the ship this fall.

Miller said the crew is being hired and he expects to obtain Coast Guard certification to carry passengers later this month.

“It took longer than we wanted, but there were more things to take care of than we expected,” he said about the ship that was built at the Seaport in 2000.

The boat was removed from the water in December and placed in the Mystic Seaport shipyard.

Miller said in June that it was then that "our worst fears were confirmed that the boat was not maintained properly."

It was discovered that the boat had never been re-caulked, which should have been done every six to seven years. In addition, both of the schooner’s Caterpillar diesel engines had to be replaced.

Miller said the schooner will be in New London for the Connecticut Maritime Festival and in the fall will make visits to New Haven and Bridgeport before coming back to New London.

“We have a lot of work to do to make up for the negative reputation of the previous organization that ran the ship,” he said referring to Amistad America, which saw the ship seized by the state in 2014 after an audit revealed a lack of accounting of how it spent $9 million in state funding.

The more than $2 million that Amistad America owed a long list of small businesses, individuals, banks and organizations went unpaid.

A court-appointed receiver sold the ship to Discovering Amistad for $315,000. The state Bond Commission then authorized $620,000 in funding for Discovering Amistad so it could purchase and repair the ship.

The repairs, which had been estimated at $300,000, cost $500,000.

The state then appropriated an additional $287,000 in bonding to help Discovering Amistad cover the additional cost.

The state also is providing $300,000 in annual funding for the ship.

Miller said his organization will begin to seek private funding this fall but it first needs to show people that it is a viable operation and the ship is back in operation.

“The more money we can raise privately, the less we’ll need from the state,” he said.

The schooner replicates a ship that was transporting 53 Africans sold into slavery along the Cuban coast in 1839 when they commandeered the ship and sailed it up the East Coast.

Captured off Montauk, N.Y., the ship was brought to New London and the captives taken to New Haven, where they were held for trial and eventually set free.

Twenty-five years ago, Miller founded SoundWaters, a Stamford-based nonprofit organization that provides educational programs about the environment of Long Island Sound to more than 27,000 students in Connecticut and New York each year while the schooner SoundWaters conducts 250 educational sails annually.



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