We are slowly losing the patrimony of America’s maritime history. Of the 686 historic ships and boats listed in the Fyddeye Guide to America’s Maritime History, most are suffering from the inexorable decay that comes with age and forgetfulness. Not that preservationists aren’t trying to save these vessels. It’s just that money is tighter than ever, and public interest is fleeting at best. Fyddeye hopes to reverse this trend with an annual listing of the most threatened of these irreplaceable artifacts. For the first time this year, the public nominated and voted on their choices for most endangered.
USCG Station Chicamacomico Surfboat No. 1046 (Rodanthe, N.C.) Surfboat No. 1046 played a key role in rescuing 51 sailors from the torpedoed British merchantman Mirlo in 1918. The rescue became the most decorated in U.S. history. The boat is preserved at the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station.
Ernestina/Morrissey (New Bedford, Mass.) Launched in 1894, the fishing schooner Ernestina is now undergoing restoration in New Bedford. Formerly the Effie M. Morrissey, the ship also explored the Arctic under the auspices of several museums and the National Geographic Society. This year, she received new masts, which will be installed in 2013.
PTF-26 (Sacramento) Launched in 1968, PTF 26, called Liberty, is the last of the Fast Patrol Boats constructed. The vessel, which is still operational, saw service in Vietnam, and it is currently used for history education. The poor economy of the past few years has forced many donors to cut back support, and she is due for a haulout in 2013.
USS Olympia (Philadelphia) Listed as an endangered vessel for the second year in a row, the 1892 USS Olympia is the only warship left from the Spanish-American War. The Independence Seaport Museum plans to transfer the vessel to a new owner in 2013. The new owner will face severe problems, including a steel hull that is paper-thin in many places.
SS United States (Philadelphia) The luxury liner SS United States, launched in 1952, has been listed as an endangered historic ship two years in a row. Despite efforts by an active group of supporters, major donations, and intense coverage in the media, the vessel still languishes at an industrial dock, and plans to redevelop the area around the ship are delayed.
Lettie G. Howard (New York) The 1893 schooner Lettie G. Howard is one of several vessels owned by the South Street Seaport Museum on the New York waterfront. Hurricane Sandy caused severe flooding at the museum, and though it has reopened, financial issues threaten its entire ship collection.
Falls of Clyde (Honolulu) 2012 marks the second year the four-masted Falls of Clyde has been listed as an endangered historic ship. Built in 1878, the ship is the only surviving sail-powered oil tanker in the world. Until recently, the ship was threatened with sinking as a reef for recreational divers.
Baltimore (Baltimore, Md.) The 1906 steam tug Baltimore is the last hand-fired, coal-burning tug still afloat and still operational. Preservationists say the tug is “a ticking time bomb waiting to go down.”
Pea Island Life-Saving Station Beebe Surfboat (Manteo, N.C.) The Beebe pulling surfboat currently on display at the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum in Manteo, N.C. The boat is at the little-known museum that commemorates the African-American crew that once staffed the life-saving station.
Kalakala (Tacoma, Wash.) Listed for the second year in a row, the 1935 art-deco ferry Kalakala is quickly deteriorating at its moorage. The ship was sold at auction in 2012 to a lien-holder, and given its condition and the high cost of restoration, the Kalakala is likely to be scrapped, possibly as early as 2013.
Thank you to everyone who participated.