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Celebrated barquentine Regina Maris scrapped

Jan 1, 2003
From Ocean Navigator #122 May/June 2002

From Ocean Navigator #122 May/June 2002

After years of falling apart, almost piece by handcrafted piece, the three-masted, wood barquentine, Regina Maris, Queen of the Sea, has reached the end of her rode. After sinking last year in Glen Cove Creek, N.Y., where she had been for the past three years, an effort was made to raise her with a crane. The hull was so damaged by the steel cables that the great ship was finally dealt her deathblow.

Regina Maris was built 1908 in Denmark for carying cargo

The three spars, the figurehead, the wheel and some sections of the white oak deck were removed from the rotting hull. The masts have since been installed at the Glen Cove Creek esplanade in Nassau County, where, embedded in concrete, they will never work loose and will be on permanent display.

Regina Maris was brought to Glen Cove three years ago from the village of Greenport on eastern Long Island, where the ship had been for almost 10 years; the intention had been to mount a major restoration of the 144-foot barquentine. Hopes were pinned to the supposed role that Regina Maris played in the evacuation of Jewish citizens from Norway during World War II. After much research by a historian hired by Glen Cove, it was found that Regina Maris played no part in assisting refugees. That, combined with the devastating economic effect of Sept. 11, virtually dried up any potential support to save the vessel. During her time in Glen Cove, despite the best efforts of volunteers, Regina leaked like a sieve; it simply couldn't be kept afloat. It was a sad but inevitable end for this great ship.

Regina was built in 1908 at the Danish yard of Jorgen Ring-Anderson. Constructed of native white oak, she was originally rigged as a three-masted schooner, flying 12 fore and aft sails and two squares from the fore. She worked as a cargo carrier in the Baltic and, after the war, fished the Grand Banks for cod from 1945 to 1960.

In 1963 the Norwegian brothers John and Sigfried Wilson purchased Regina, as she was originally named. Her name was changed to Regina Maris, and she was completely rebuilt as a three-masted barquentine and outfitted to sail around the world. In 1966 Regina Maris became the first cargo-carrying, wood-hulled sailing ship to double Cape Horn in more than 60 years.

A few years later, the Wilsons sailed Regina Maris to Australia to commemorate the voyage of Captain Cook. It was on this passage that the vessel was struck by lightning and was later dismasted. The Wilson brothers undertook a heroic effort and, sparing no expense, rerigged the ship and got her to Australia.

The next claim to fame was when oceanographer Dr. George Nichols purchased the vessel in 1975 under the auspices of the Ocean Research and Education Society, which was dedicated to the study and protection of whales. Regina Maris sailed regularly between the Arctic and the equator following the migratory habits of the humpback. It was during this period that the well-received book, Tuning the Rig, concerning a passage to Greenland, was written by Harvey Oxenhorn. This book effectively charmed people to stand behind the vessel when it began to deteriorate.

By 1988 the vessel had fallen on lean times, and it sank at its Boston dock. The vessel was refloated and, in 1991, was scuttled for its own good against the force of Hurricane Bob. She was through as a sailing ship.

But the vessel had a hold on the imagination of sailors and landlubbers alike, and in 1991 she was brought to Greenport, N.Y. During her stay in the village, she sank at the dock and another time caught fire. The village was making plans to scuttle her when Glen Cove stepped in and took the ship.

With the demise of Regina Maris, Gazela of Philadelphia, docked at Philadelphia, and Barba Negra in Savannah, Ga., are the only remaining three-masted wood barquentines in the United States.