Notes from the Old Noank Jail: The Schooner Alvei
This is part one covering the almost three-year voyage of our new resident topsail schooner, Sea Vessel (SV) Alvei.
Before she tied up at Mystic Oysters’ dock in Noank on Friday afternoon, June 17, Alvei led a long and varied life. She was originally built as a herring drifter to comb the waters off Scotland in 1920. A few decades later, she, like many trawlers, was commandeered for service as a minesweeper in World War II.
She was fortunate to survive combat and return to her owners in 1952. In a few years, she was rigged as a small coastal freighter. A 1954 two-cylinder Witchman prototype two-cycle diesel engine, which still serves her well, gave her power.
In 1986, she was converted to a three-masted topsail auxiliary schooner in Porto, Portugal and then spent the next 40 years sailing the South Pacific as an educational vessel. After the passing of her owner and much neglect, Alvei was due to be scuttled and turned into a dive reef off Fiji in 2019. When a local captain, Dan Moreland, heard about it, he contacted Noank Captain Geoffrey Jones to see if he could somehow save this ship.
Jones flew to Fiji, organized a local crew, brought others from this area, and, after considerable effort, made her seaworthy once again by early 2020. And thus began a yearslong, at times harrowing, sojourn home.
The trip took them across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal with a shipped jib-boom, and up the Atlantic coast in a matter of nine months. Crew members changed as travel restrictions were lifted from various countries.
Two veteran Noank sailors were able to hop on to help Alvei for the final legs of the journey.
In classic Noank fashion, word of Alvei’s arrival spread fast enough that a crowd of us had gathered at the dock in time to welcome the crew home. Jubilant reunions, excited introductions and hot showers filled the next few hours and then a delicious feast of fresh fish finished the day.
On Saturday afternoon, Alvei headed up the river and docked at her new home, Schooner Wharf in Mystic.
We look forward to sharing more about this historic vessel and her turbulent trek in future articles. Welcome home, Alvei!
We wish to thank Jeff Thompson and Stephen Jones for their contributions to this article.
Ed Johnson and his daughter Lacy live in Noank.