Two Historic Sailing Ships Could Dock at Seaport This Summer
Two famous historic sailing ships will dock at the South Street Seaport this summer, if Jonathan Boulware, the South Street Seaport Museum’s interim director, has his way.
Those ships are the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle, now based in New London, Conn., which serves as a seagoing classroom for U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadets, and Hermione, a replica of the 1779 French ship that ferried General Marquis de Lafayette to the U.S. during the Revolutionary War.
The ships would be part of a visiting vessel program that Boulware called “absolutely critical” for the museum because the institution can only afford to sustain one of its tall ships, he told Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee last month. Those, and other visiting vessels large and small, he said, would help the museum maintain its “street of ships” even as it loses boats of its own.
“There is a lot of emotional connection to the idea of having big square-rigged ships on the East River,” Boulware said. “The iconic view of a big square-rigged ship there is worth having.”
In order to accommodate those vessels, though, the museum must expand to other piers, Boulware said. Last summer, he said, he had to turn away the Barque Eagle for lack of space.
Piers 15 and 16 are the only two Seaport piers that remain open and accessible, and according to Boulware, Pier 16 is “pretty well filled up.” Although Pier 17 is currently closed as the Howard Hughes Corp. builds a new mall there, Boulware said he hopes that in the future he and the developer can “work together on berthing historic ships on Pier 17 as well.”
The city’s Economic Development Corporation has also allowed the museum to use the north side of Pier 15 for the tall ship Wavertree, which Boulware said he hopes to hold onto after it returns from the shipyard and takes a berth at Pier 16.
“But we will also need other spaces in the district,” he added.
Boulware has the support of CB1 in that push. The board passed a resolution, calling for “adequate pier space at the South Street Seaport” and “the pier access required to institute a visiting vessel program.”
Currently, the south side of Pier 15 is used by Hornblower Cruises, which operates sightseeing tours and evening and entertainment cruises. Docking privileges at the pier are determined by a competitive procurement process, according to a spokesman for the Economic Development Corp., the city agency that oversees the piers as well as the rest of city’s seaport properties.
“[A visiting ship program] brings all kinds of things to the district that the Seaport Museum couldn’t do even if we did have two big square-riggers of our own,” Boulware said. “It brings in a foreign flag ship, a French ship, it brings in the Coast Guard Barque Eagle, it brings in things that you can bring your families to and tour and say, ‘There’s something new at the Seaport.’”