New Jersey’s very own tall ship, the A.J. Meerwald makes her annual return visit to Schellengers Landing at Utsch’s marina in Cape May from August 12th through September 3rd. An original 1928 Delaware Bay oyster schooner, the A.J. Meerwald was restored and is maintained by the Bayshore Center at Bivalve in Port Norris, NJ.
The public will be invited to tour the vessel free of charge on Friday, August 12th from 4:00 to 6:00. Afternoon and evening fee-based public sails are scheduled for most days between August 12th and September 3rd. The afternoon sails typically depart at 1:30 P.M. and evening sails depart at 5:00.
In addition, a Pirate Sail, Sailor for the Day, and Family Special Sails will be available. Contact the Bayshore Center at 856-785-2060 for specific costs, reservations and details, or buy tickets online at www.bayshorecenter.org.
Built and launched in 1928, Meerwald was one of hundreds of such schooners that were built along South Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore before the Great Depression of 1929 ushered in the decline of South Jersey’s shipbuilding industry. Each spring, as many as 500 of these schooners would sail “up the bay” to harvest oysters. Unfortunately, those days are but a memory. Today, the Meerwald is the sole remaining example of a vessel that was ideally adapted to her tasking, her environment, and the prevailing weather conditions common on the Delaware Bay. She is truly living history!
Common to her class, the Meerwald is an all-wooden Delaware Bay oyster schooner of a distinct design and of construction that was once so very common on the Bay. “Dorchester Built,” as in Dorchester on the South Jersey Bayshore, her construction was and continues to be, “oak on oak,” oak planks on oak frames. Her minimum draft (6’), wide beam (22’) flush deck (85’) her low freeboard (4’) and racked transom stern made her the perfect platform for oyster dredging whether under sail or power.
Her sailing rig was typical of this new style of working schooner. “Bald-headed,” she lacked topmasts and instead sported a large “gloriana peaked” mainsail, a smaller foresail with a single large staysail supported by a bowsprit.
The Meerwald family of South Dennis ordered the vessel to be constructed by the Charles H. Stowman & Sons Shipyard of Dorchester in lower Cumberland County. After launching in 1928, she plied the Delaware Bay harvesting oysters until commandeered by the Maritime Commission during World War II, who outfitted her as a fireboat and assigned her to the U.S. Coast Guard. After the war she was returned to the Meerwald family, who then sold her to Clyde A. Phillips.
Renamed for her new owner, she operated as a powered oyster dredge until sold again and re-outfitted as a clam dredge. Retired in the late 70’s, ownership of the Clyde A. Phillips finally passed on to the newly formed Bayshore Center at Bivalve where she was painstakingly restored.
When restoration was completed in 1995 she was rechristened and launched as the A.J. Meerwald. Added to the National Register of Historic Places, the Meerwald was designated as New Jersey’s Official Tall Ship in 1998 by then Governor Christine Todd Whitman.
Content for this Blog post was provided by Mark Allen of South Jersey Marina