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Replica ship sold to O'Brian filmmakers

Jan 1, 2003

The tall ship HMS Rose, pride of Bridgeport's Black Rock Harbor since 1984 is sailing off to glory on the silver screen.

The 179-foot, 500-ton replica of the British frigate that blockaded Newport, R.I., during the American Revolution, has been sold to a major production company to be the stage for a film version of the wildly successful sea novels by the late Patrick O'Brian. The name of the purchaser and the terms of the sales agreement are bound up in various confidentiality agreements and thus cannot be revealed, said Jan Williams, a director of the HMS Rose Foundation and the daughter of waterfront entrepreneur Kaye Williams, who made the ship the centerpiece of his Captain's Cove Seaport development in Black Rock Harbor.

"We're really excited about this," said Jan Williams. "It's good for the Rose. Capt. (Richard) Bailey is going with her and she'll still be available for sail training."

The HMS Rose Foundation will continue operating, primarily with the old Nantucket Light Ship, which is berthed at Captain's Cove.

The original HMS Rose was built at Hull, Yorkshire, England, in 1756-57 and served the Royal Navy in both European and American waters. She first operated against the French in the English Channel and then in the Caribbean during the Seven Years War. She returned to England for refitting in 1761 and was dispatched to the British fleet in Boston in 1768.

'She blockaded Newport in 1774 and took part in the British attack on Gen. George Washington's Continental forces in New York in1776. In 1779 HMS Rose was deliberately sunk at the mouth of the harbor at Savannah, Georgia, to block a French invasion force.

John Miller in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, built the replica in 1970 from the original plans. Like the original, the HMS Rose replica is 179 feet long with a beam of 32 feet and a displacement of 500 tons. She can carry 13,000 square feet of sail and can make 15 knots - at least in theory.

Rose was operated as a museum in Boston, Newport, and other New England ports until Kaye Williams bought the ship in 1984 and brought it to Black Rock. She underwent a complete restoration in 1985-87. Unlike the original, the replica Rose is equipped with two diesel engines and electronics. The Coast Guard certified it as a sail training ship, and it has voyaged all around the North Atlantic between North America and Europe.

Patrick O'Brian's tales of the adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin will not be Rose's film debut. The ship briefly appeared in Stephen Spielberg's film Amistad.

Nor will the upcoming movie shoot be Rose's first exposure to the O'Brian mystique. On April 14, 1995, HMS Rose hosted a press reception for O'Brian and his new novel The Commodore in New York.


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