The beloved schooner Shenandoah is back in Vineyard Haven Harbor after seven months of extensive restoration in Mystic Seaport’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard.
For decades, the tall ship has been providing unforgettable educational experiences to Islanders, and has now set a goal of providing those very same experiences to 1,200 more youth by 2025.
According to Shenandoah Captain Ian Ridgeway, the ship’s certificate to operate expired at the end of her season in 2019. In order to renew the certificate, a significant amount of money had to go toward repairing the deteriorated stern, among other parts of the ship.
The following year, the pandemic hit, and all Shenandoah programming was suspended.
The owners of the Black Dog — the Douglas family — were unable to make the necessary repairs to the ship due to the tremendous capital expense.
“It looked like Shenandoah’s serviceable career had come to an end,” Ridgeway told The Times. Ridgeway is also the executive director and co-founder of the Foundation for Underway Experiential Learning (FUEL), the nonprofit organization that currently owns the Shenandoah after the original captain, Bob Douglas, donated her.
“We saw such a wonderful opportunity with FUEL, since we were really trying to get our education program off the ground, to inherit the Shenandoah’s educational mission, and merge it with our own,” Ridgeway said.
By garnering support within the community, FUEL was able to raise the capital needed for the repairs, and brought the ship to the boatyard in Mystic.
Ridgeway explained that the greatest extent of repairs to Shenandoah were to her stern, where a large portion of timber had to be replaced (although other repairs were needed to the aft deck and hull).
“We found that many of the frames beneath the hull planking had some deterioration, so it was definitely a significant restoration,” Ridgeway said.
With the addition of some new mattresses, bed linens, and a fresh suit of sails, Shenandoah is “very much back to her normal self,” Ridgeway said.
David Guertin of FUEL said there is $220,000 left to raise to reach FUEL’s $1 million goal for the Shenandoah: Sailing into the Future campaign, which will support the ship and its programs following a massive fundraising response by the Vineyard community.
Beginning Monday, July 5, the ship will embark on week-long voyages with students from eight Island schools. The ship’s program schedule is full through August, with more than 225 students experiencing life at sea and sailing aboard the Shenandoah.
“We believe that guided adventures are vital to human development. We saw an opportunity to save something that was in peril — something that I believe is really important for youth and our Island,” Ridgeway said.
He expressed his gratitude to the individuals, families, and businesses who donated on such short notice, and made the campaign and the future of Shenandoah possible. “It has really been so humbling and inspiring to see that response from our community,” Ridgeway said.