JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bishop Museum officials are looking for benefactors to finance restoration of the historic Falls of Clyde ship, which is deteriorating at Honolulu Harbor's Pier 7. If $32 million is not raised, the 130-year-old vessel likely will be sunk.
Savior needed for Falls of Clyde
The historic ship is already being prepared for either life or a watery grave
Bishop Museum officials are clinging to the hope that a "white knight" will save the historic but deteriorating Falls of Clyde sailing ship, long an attraction in Honolulu Harbor.
If a benefactor does not come forward to fund major repairs to the historic Falls of Clyde, the 130-year-old vessel will likely be sunk. Some facts about the ship:
» The world's only surviving ship of its kind
» Built in 1878 by Russell & Co. in Port Glasgow, Scotland
» Constructed with riveted wrought iron
» Deck length: 266 feet
» Breadth: 40 feet
» Mast height: 138 feet
» Net tonnage: 1,740
Source: Hawaii Maritime Center
"There is a sense of urgency here," said Blair Collis, the museum's senior vice president and chief operating officer.
Workers from Brion Toss Yacht Riggers Inc. of Port Townsend, Wash., began to de-rig the 266-feet vessel Monday for stability and safety reasons due to its worsening condition. About 35 tons of material are expected to be removed from the ship before the hull is reinforced with steel.
Already, workers have removed the rudder and are in the process of taking down the rigging, masts and bowsprit.
"Right now, we're getting the ship ready for either its new life for a new owner if a white knight appears, or, alternatively, we're looking at the disposal of the ship -- and that means deep-water sinking," said Joseph Lombardi, a Massachusetts-based marine surveyor and consultant with Ocean Technical Services LLC. "We're doing the preparation work for either course."
The 19th-century vessel, tied up at Pier 7, was closed to the public in January 2007. An assessment by Lombardi last spring determined that the framing and hull plating were in bad shape.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Workers walked atop the bowsprit of the Falls of Clyde near Aloha Tower yesterday. The historic ship needs major repairs to various parts in order to stay afloat, including riggings in the midsection as well as parts of the bow.
Lombardi estimated that more than $32 million is needed to restore the ship. Efforts to preserve the vessel have cost more than $2 million over the past 10 years, according to Bishop Museum officials.
Collis said the museum -- the nonprofit operator of the Hawaii Maritime Center, which owns the ship -- lacks the funding to get the ship into shape.
Earlier this year, appeals went out to the maritime industry for a potential benefactor. A Hawaii-based group has shown interest, but it's in the preliminary stages.
Lombardi said that if nobody is willing to take on the task of preserving the ship, it's gone.
"It's likely to be sunk unless someone steps forward and can show the financial wherewithal to do this project in the proper manner and put it in dry dock immediately," he said. "It's sad because she's such a beautiful ship. It's just full of 19th-century material culture."
The four-masted, iron-hulled ship was built in Scotland and launched in 1878. Named after a waterfall on Scotland's River Clyde, it was purchased in 1899 by Capt. William Matson of Matson Navigation Co. and brought to Honolulu.
The ship was initially used as a trans-Pacific passenger ship and freighter before it was converted into a bulk tanker, then a fuel-oil barge and floating gasoline depot. The ship was decommissioned in 1959, then rescued from destruction, moved back to Honolulu, restored and opened to the public in 1968.
"It's really sad to see this piece of Hawaii's history destroyed, and this is what's happening," said Bob Potter, a former Hawaii Maritime Center docent. "Bishop Museum neglected to care for the Falls of Clyde until she was in such bad shape."