SSV Oliver Hazard Perry Square Rigger Nears Delivery

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By Vincent Tavani

Why build a tall ship from scratch at the beginning of the twenty-first century?

A full-rigged, ocean-going ship hasn’t been attempted in the United States since 1904.  SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, now in its final stages of construction at Hinckley Company in Portsmouth, is exactly that: a 500-ton, three-masted vessel, with square sails on all three masts, the tallest being 130 feet over the water.  She takes her name from the Rhode Island-born hero of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, whose pivotal victory was achieved beneath a flag emblazed with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship!”

Though the heyday of the full-rigged ship may be past, the labor-intensive rig is prime training in the character values that will never be made obsolete.

oliver hazard perry tall ship

For a sail-powered vessel, navigation as simple as changing direction is entirely contingent on wind direction and force.  Doing so demands the coordination and cooperation of each member of the ship’s company.  On a Sailing School Vessel like Oliver Hazard Perry, students are all trainees, participating fully in the Sail evolutions – bracing the yards, laying aloft to unfurl or stow, and trimming sail – as well as every other aspect of the ship, as a way of learning responsibility, teamwork, diligence, and good old seamanship.  In addition to the hands-on learning in the rig, Oliver Hazard Perry has classroom spaces below deck outfitted with educational technology to allow schools to use her as a mobile campus and take advantage of the seafaring experience while building curriculum.

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When not sailing for schools or universities, Oliver Hazard Perry will offer summer adventure programs for teens and traditional seamanship development for adults. In partnership with Ocean Navigator, a celestial navigation course for adults will take place on an autumn voyage to Lunenberg and another on a spring voyage to Bermuda.

oliver hazard perry tall ship oliver hazard perry tall ship

Vessel Particulars:

  • 200ft: Largest civilian Sailing School Vessel in the US
  • 7 miles of rope, 160 belaying pins, 20 sails, 14,000 sq ft of sail
  • Ocean-going full-rigged ship: The first to be built in the US in over 100 years
  • Sailing School Vessel: Carries no passengers, all who sail aboard are crew and take active roles in sailing the ship safely
  • Meets and exceeds all USCG and ABS safety requirements for a ship of her size
  • Provides an opportunity for growth: personally, professionally, academically, physically &  socially – building seamanship skills, teamwork, leadership, stewardship
  • Accommodates 49 people overnight and 100 for day sails, including 15 professional crew

Visit ohpri.org for more information.

All images courtesy OHPRI/Onne van der Wal