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Maritime History in the Making; SSV Oliver Hazard Perry Is Newest Addition to America's Tall Ship Fleet

NEWPORT, RI--(Marketwired - April 14, 2014) - While lathes are turning in Washington State, dozens of riggers have begun working on the standing rigging that will faithfully support the three masts of SSV Oliver Hazard Perry. The 200-foot square-rigged Tall Ship is Rhode Island's official Sailing Education Vessel, the largest of its kind to have been built in this country in the last 100 years. The ship's hull is at Senesco Marine in Quonset, Rhode Island; its wooden spars are being turned and shaped at The Spar Shop at Grays Harbor Historical Seaport in Aberdeen, Washington; and the rigging is taking shape in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, where many of the state's renowned marine trades companies are headquartered. And although these vital components are spread about in different locations at the moment, this Spring they will come together in Portsmouth, R.I. to comprise one very large, very impressive and exceptionally appointed Class A Tall Ship. 

"The Perry is a modern, steel-hulled ocean-going civilian sail training vessel, with a 13½ story rig and 20 sails (made by Hood Sails in Middletown, R.I.) with 14,000 sq. ft. of sail area," says the ship's Captain Richard Bailey, a Wellfleet, Mass. native greatly respected for his previous Tall Ship commands and his knowledge of maritime traditions, education and their combined relevance in the modern world. "Her design is based on centuries-old tradition, but her equipment is anything but antiquated."

In addition to her three decks, modern galley and Great Cabin (where captains, in days of yore, entertained), the Perry sports, among other things, high-end navigation and communication systems, a state-of-the-art science lab (designed under the guidance of the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography), and wheelchair accessibility (including accessible below deck staterooms, heads and a wheelchair lift). The Great Cabin will be used less for entertaining and more for education in its capacity as a classroom outfitted with monitors displaying real-time navigation and meteorological data. The other classroom space will house laptop computers (donated by Intel), interactive SMART boards (donated by Shanix Technologies, Inc.) and a well-stocked library. 

"Belowdecks, she is really not like any other Tall Ship that is sailing out there today," says Bailey, who notably ran "HMS" Rose for 20 years before it was bought by Hollywood producers for the movie Master and Commander. "Above deck, however, she is a completely traditional Tall Ship, and in that respect there are many artisans who will have had a hand in contributing to her character."

Among those are Alan Richrod and his crew at The Spar Shop, which is said to have the largest spar lathe in North America, if not the world. By press time they will have completed 11 of the 19 spars ordered by OHPRI, including the mizzen, main mast and royals for each; fore top mast and gallant; mizzen gaff; boom; and jib boom. (Video here.)

According to Richrod, the jib boom required the largest piece of wood in terms of board feet (53 feet long and 16½ inches in diameter before shaping), and the largest of the yards being made is the main course yard (lowest on the main mast); it is currently 12,000 pounds (weight before water evaporation) and was cut from a 65 foot log that only weeks ago was a tree standing in a forest. 

"In all, the spars we are making for the ship weigh more than 35 and 1/2 tons and total 25,182 board feet -- that's enough to build a house of over 3700 square feet!" said Richrod.

Richrod explained that, in keeping with the Perry's commitment to reducing its ecological footprint, The Spar Shop's wood comes from a private tree farm in Rainier, Ore. where, rather than harvesting by clear-cutting the trees, the owner (whose great grandfather bought the property in 1918) only thins and replants. 

"He cuts what we need with his son and one other guy," said Richrod, who has been a woodworker since he was a child. "This is a neat project, and we're excited about being a part of it. It's in keeping with our own maritime tradition and the education component here at Grays Harbor Historical Seaport."

Richrod estimates the masts and yards will be delivered cross-country to Newport in late April.

Riggers have come in from all over the country to work on SSV Oliver Hazard Perry's six miles of traditional rigging for this modern ship. Currently, the team of 18 is in the pre-assembly stage, working out of New England Boatworks to put the wire rigging through the "worm, parcel and serve" process, which is used in traditional style rigging to waterproof and prevent rusting over time. Once the mast is ready, the team of riggers will step it and rig the lower terminals so that the mast can be held in place while the yards are added and the rigging is completed. The process for this stage of the rigging will take approximately six weeks.

Clean and Green
By the nature of sailing itself, the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry will be energy efficient, powered by the wind whenever possible. To reduce its energy footprint further, the ship's diesel engines and generators will run on biodiesel (supplied by Newport BioDiesel), and ultra-high capability Ensolve separators will cleanse oily waste water down to 2-15 ppm using naturally occurring microbes. On board, the focus will be on sustainable living: conserving water, minimizing trash and reducing food waste. Trash will be separated and all plastics taken ashore for recycling, while black water will be treated in an onboard waste water treatment plant.

"It is expected that with all these ecologically responsible practices in place, along with first-hand experiences of the fragility of ocean life, a sense of pride, stewardship and passion for the marine environment will be instilled in our shipmates," said Richard Bailey, the Captain of the ship.

First Season Close to Home
Though it is to be certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry 49 people on overnight voyages anywhere in the world, SSV Oliver Hazard Perry will spend its first summer close to home. After an annual fundraising gala on July 5 in Newport, R.I., the ship plans to join the Cape Cod Canal Centennial Celebrations July 28-30, and in August, she will travel along the coast of New England, visiting the historically rich ports of Nantucket, Boston, Portsmouth, N.H. and Greenport, N.Y. during her one-week camp sessions for teens. In September, the ship will journey to Baltimore for Bicentennial Celebrations of the Star Spangled Banner and then to Bermuda and Portland during one-week voyages featuring Celestial Navigation and Meteorology Courses in partnership with Ocean Navigator Magazine.

For more information about SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, please visit www.ohpri.org or contact Jess Wurzbacher or Elise Huebner at 401-841-0080, [email protected].

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