Editorial: Hopeful tack for tall ship

Posted 3/21/19

2018 was a miserable year for SSV Oliver Hazard Perry.

At just three years old, months after being anointed Rhode Island’s official tall ship, the momentarily magnificent Perry was awash in …

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Editorial: Hopeful tack for tall ship

Posted

1918 was a miserable year for SSV Oliver Hazard Perry.

At just three years old, months after being anointed Rhode Island’s official tall ship, the momentarily magnificent Perry was awash in money woes with all trips cancelled and crew laid off, had been put up for sale with no takers on the horizon, and was seeking someplace cheap to tie up for the winter.

The collapse of a dream that had been realized through the gifts and efforts of so many was startling, sad and embarrassing.

Spring’s arrival brings at least a ray of hope for the Perry. The ship’s troubles are still daunting, but a fresh approach and some sorely needed cash (including a $300,000 anonymous gift) suggest that all may not be lost.

Key to it all is the realization that if the Perry is truly to be Rhode Island’s tall ship, it needs to act like it.

Before, an ambitious travel schedule usually seemed always to have the Perry someplace a long way from the “home” state. The itinerary showed long stretches away (most of the year, in fact)— Cuba, Florida, Bermuda, the Arctic, Newfoundland, Boston …

That will change immediately, said Avery “Whip” Seaman, the new chairman of the non-profit organization that owns and operates the tall ship.

Perry’s “new operating model will pivot away from long offshore voyages that impact the fewest people at the greatest capital expense,” he said. “Really the best plan for Oliver Hazard Perry is for her to remain here in Rhode Island serving the people of Rhode Island and adjacent coastal communities with year-round programming.” 

Maybe that means anchoring off Bristol for the Fourth, firing off a cannon salute to the parade, taking Providence schoolchildren for bay trips, visiting Newport for the big summer concerts, sailing down to Galilee and the Block, working with the War College, URI …

Despite the fall from grace, Perry is still one fine ship. The near-decade-long, $12 million job of transforming a steel hull into a tall ship was only completed in 2015 — the ship is essentially brand new, its twin bio-diesel engines barely broken in.

Fleeing home waters didn’t work. If Perry is to succeed as Rhode Island’s tall ship, the ship must relish the role — welcome people aboard and show the flag.

The transition is off to a promising start.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.