Falls of Clyde to undergo 2 months of repairs next year


POSTED: Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The 131-year-old sailing ship Falls of Clyde will be going into dry dock about a year from now for about two months of repairs, according to the nonprofit group supporting its preservation.

Bruce McEwan, president of the Friends of the Falls of Clyde, said consultants have recommended the 266-foot ship undergo some repairs by volunteers while docked at Honolulu Harbor.

“;The goal is to get it in condition to reopen it for visitors, both tourists and local folks,”; McEwan said yesterday.

McEwan said the Friends want to use the ship in part for educational tours for schoolchildren, as in the 1980s and 1990s.

He said during the year waiting for dry dock, the Friends will be seeking donations and grants to support ship repairs and hire a project manager.

McEwan said the Friends expect some funds to be transferred from its former owner, the Bishop Museum.

The group was formed in August 2008 to buy the ship and take over the responsibility of repairing it.

McEwan said the consultant's assessment was that the ship was in no risk of sinking, but needed repairs to its tanks and reinforcement of its structure while awaiting dry dock.

He said the Friends will also be working on refurbishing the captain's cabin and parts of the deck.

The ship had about 130 visitors a day and sometimes as many as 500 people with busloads of Japanese tourists, recalled Keven Williamson, a Friends board member and also volunteer director for the battleship Missouri.

Tours stopped after a report was issued in 2007 saying the Falls of Clyde was ready to sink, Williamson recalled.

“;Well, it hasn't sank,”; he said.

Williamson said a number of people, assuming the ship was beyond repair, have asked when the ship was going to be sunk.

“;Over our dead bodies,”; he said.

Williamson said he is looking forward to repairs to the historic freighter.

“;It's an exciting time,”; he said. “;The enthusiasm of people is just wonderful.”;

The Falls of Clyde was launched as a four-masted, full-rigged sailing vessel out of Port Glasgow, Scotland, on Dec. 12, 1878, as part of a commercial fleet and sailed under British registry to most continents until it was sold to an agent of Capt. William Matson, according to the Friends' history of the vessel.

Matson, founder of Matson Navigation, converted the ship to a bark, and the Falls of Clyde carried sugar, molasses and oil from Hilo to San Francisco until 1906.

The ship was sold to various firms, including General Petroleum Corp. in 1921, and was on the verge of being sunk to form a breakwater when a core group of Hawaii's maritime community raised money for its return to Hawaii in 1963, the Friends said.

The Bishop Museum, managing the ship's operations, opened the ship to the public in 1971 at Honolulu Harbor.

The ship sustained major damage during Hurricane Iwa in 1982.

In 1988 the Falls of Clyde was declared a National Historic Monument by the National Park Service.

By early 2008, after receiving an estimate of at least $30 million to restore the ship, the Bishop Museum issued a contract to remove valuables and the masts from the ship to prepare the vessel to be towed out to sea and sunk.

The Friends formed a nonprofit group to save the ship, and in September 2008 the Bishop Museum's board agreed to sell it.

McEwan said a consultant is providing the Friends with a document that can be used to obtain estimates of the work from commercial shipyards on Oahu.

He said the Friends plan to seek grants to hire a project manager.

The Friends' Web site is friendsoffallsofclyde.org, and potential volunteers may e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).