Yes, we had a clipper ship on our waterfront. Unfortunately, it came way too soon.
It was, of course, the natural thing to do! We are “Clipper City” and this type of ship has been forever linked to our seafaring port. Here is the aerial photo to prove it was here.
And why not? Our city was being restored to its historic architecture. People were enthused and felt that Newburyport would become a regional and International draw for tourists. Excitement was in the air.
To bolster that fact, a large plaque was placed at Market Square to announce this fact and announcements were made in Boston and throughout New England. It was a heady time in 1971-72.
So the ship came to Newburyport and the tourists came. It looked like Newburyport was going to definitely be on the map. We would rival Mystic Seaport and the economic health of the town would be assured.
So why is there no clipper ship now down at our harbor? Why is there any tourist ship sitting at our beautiful boardwalk and the Whale Watch boat is the best we can offer?
As I said, it was way too soon.
Newburyport was not known for anything. No tourist in his right mind would spend a dime to come to this rundown mill town.
So what about the big placard announcing the Clipper Ship and Bruce Brown’s Sabino?
It was located on a boarded up building in front of a torn-up street.
Okay, so their hardy tourists. They can get past that.
Then, they go down to our beautiful waterfront. The first thing they have to do is hope their tires aren’t punctured by old nails and debris. They pick their way through construction materials, tall weeds and trash debris and find a parking spot up near the water.
They get out of their car and gingerly stride across the deeply rutted lot and try to get as close as they can to the water. They look up and behold the magnificent vessel
But you are not done yet. Now you want to board the ship and look at all the audio-visual displays on deck.
This will require again a very careful stroll over and around our lovely waterfront and get yourself ready to board.
Well, true to expectations, the crowds came from all over New England and the number on the docks was great. Write-ups praised Newburyport for being a great maritime city even though the Custom House was an empty shell and most of the City was in similar condition. The shops were not in yet, the restaurants were just getting started but the crowds came!
Unfortunately, at that time, Newburyport had no adequate docking facilities for such a grand ship and the marinas were just gearing up and maintenance equipment was hard to come by. That winter, the ice began to flow down the river and our great clipper ship became seriously damaged. By the spring, enough damage had been taken in that the boat was in serious need for repairs.
Since the boat was owned by a commercial entity, they realized that the repairs would be costly so the boat was hauled out of Newburyport never to be seen again. It was turned into a restaurant down in Boston. Failing that, it was sold and its whereabouts are hard to confirm at this time.
Our great clipper ship was miserably towed away.
If that ship had come to Newburyport today, it would be a shining example promoting our heritage and making the entire city $$$.
I hope the Custom House finally gets its act together and realizes that putting a restoration vessel on our boardwalk, a rebuilt Coast Guard Cutter Massachusetts will benefit not just their museum but be a spectacular way to generate income throughout the community.
And if we ever learn of another Clipper Ship available out there, I pray we have the means and the opportunity again to bring our heritage back!