Shenandoah traditions will continue

The famed schooner Shenandoah moored in Vineyard Haven Harbor. — Rich Saltzberg

Capt. Morgan Douglas, general manager of Black Dog Tall Ships, the company that has long managed the legendary schooner Shendandoah, recently acknowledged the transfer of the vessel to FUEL (Foundation for Underway Experiential Learning), and emphasized there will be ongoing support and a spirit of partnership in the endeavor.  

“This new arrangement is a partnership,” he wrote in a release, “where we will fully support FUEL as they continue and build upon Shenandoah’s programs, and with the senior captain [Bob Douglas] still involved in the ship’s planning and operation. This transition will bridge the Shenandoah’s 57-year career to future passengers so that our traditional customers will be able to participate in ‘Kids Cruise’ and school programs through FUEL. Outwardly, very little will change.”

Capt. Morgan Douglas made note of the nautical legacy of his father, Bob Douglas, who conceived of and built the Shenandoah. He described his father’s love of the Shenandoah as “hard-wired” and enduring. 

“Over the length of her 57-year-long career, Shenandoah has moved from a contemporary of the now mostly vanished New England windjammers to a host for both Martha’s Vineyard students and ‘Kids Cruise’ campers, to a status within American maritime history that few others will ever achieve,” he wrote. “She has bridged generations of commercial sailing vessels, from a member of a passenger-carrying fleet to an outlier as she operates each summer, all the while remaining the only non-auxiliary square-topsail schooner (licensed to carry passengers) in the world. All of this starts with the lifelong commitment my father made to the history she represents, the experience she provides, and his passion for them, but is made possible by the passengers, families, schools, and organizations that participate and support. Combined, these have created a 57-year run that will almost certainly never be seen again.”

For 25 years, Douglas said, Black Dog Tall Ships has been committed to Vineyard children and visiting children who participated in the unique school and camp programs on the Shenandoah. 

“This agreement will keep these experiences intact, and the Shenandoah accessible to the current and future generations of Islanders,” he wrote. “Something as emblematic and symbolic of Martha’s Vineyard as Shenandoah is having her future solidified, through the energy of FUEL, and under the close watch of Captain Douglas, for all who choose to participate. This is a victory. The vanishing living history of traditional sail will be kept alive through action, participation, and education. Her passengers will continue to connect with the elements and waters surrounding this Island, in a way that no other vessel allows. This experience and lifestyle will be kept accessible and available to all.”

Ian Ridgeway, co-founder and executive director of FUEL, told The Times demand for FUEL programming is expected to be high in the 2021 season, and FUEL is grateful for its collaborative arrangement with Black Dog Tall Ships and the Douglas family.