The sinking of the San Francesco is nothing new.
The cargo-turned-passenger schooner is used to its fair share of floods, gale-force winds and even a fire, but the 147-year-old ship is still standing.
The process of taking the 70-foot, 43,000-pound boat out of the water has been Rick Stewart’s personal mission for the past two years as the nonprofit Cortez Classic Yacht Guild works to restore it to its former glory. The delay of the project is not only because of the few run-ins with bad weather, but the funding and coordination to put it “on the hard” — or in layman’s terms “on land” — requires careful planning.
Just to get the boat floating and out of the water from the docks by Seafood Shack down the street to the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage’s Boatworks, a place for boat-building professionals and wood-working enthusiasts, it’ll run him about $20,000. The whole project, including the long-term repair, will cost $2.5 million. The masts need to be removed; the boat needs to be wrapped in plastic and emptied to float; and a flatbed from Texas will be used to move the boat to F.I.S.H. — all of which is expected to take around two weeks.
Stewart, who is Boatworks’ manager, is looking for tax-deductible donations to help him move the boat so it can be painted white, its hull repaired and sailing like new to teach locals about the environment and shipbuilding.
With the help of a team of divers, the schooner was shifted upright this week after lying on its port side across the dock for two months. Hurricane Hermine and cracks in the hull were to blame.
Seafood Shack’s chief operating officer Jed Lippincott said when it sank on Sept. 28 — the second time this year — it didn’t make a sound.
“If you weren’t watching, you wouldn’t have noticed,” he said.
Lippincott is a history fan and is glad to share the schooner’s long history with customers, but he said it’ll be a bittersweet moment when the boat is away for repairs for what Stewart expects could be two to three years.
Stewart told the Bradenton Herald in January that the boat began its life as an Italian cargo ship built in 1870. It carried granite and marble until the steamship was the more efficient choice. The only thing it could carry then were black market items like ivory, guns and wine, Stewart said. Confiscated by the Queen’s Royal Navy in 1918, the boat was refurbished as a private yacht, going across the ocean to Aruba, Jamaica, Cuba, Key West and then Clearwater, where it was originally for sale at $250,000 then reduced to $175,000.
Steward did not comment on how much purchased the boat for.
Capt. Joe MacFarlane, who is retired, has spent a lot of his time and effort trying to make this happen. When he sees something wrong, he says he takes action.
“She deserves the right to be rejuvenated,” MacFarlane said.