Bessie Ellen

The Danish Maritime Museum had the schooner Bonavista built on the island of Aero at Marstal and this year they plan to get her rigged in preparation for a voyage to the settlement of Bonavista in Newfoundland.

The original tops’l schooner Bonavista was built in 1915 to load dry salted cod, known as ‘stock fish,’ back to southern European Catholic countries. When John Cabot sailed the Bristol Matthew into Bonsvista Bay in 1497 it was claimed that cod could be scooped out of the sea with a bucket, but over fishing meant that the fish stocks collapsed and in 1992 the Canadian Government closed the fishery.

The Bonavista has a light green band painted around her rail to show she is a vessel from Marstal and the 84ft Westcountry trading ketch Bessie Ellen also has a green band to show she was once owned in Marstal. Last winter, this ketch followed her normal winter routine of going to the Canary Islands for charter work, but because of the big Atlantic swells rolling into the harbours there, she will probably not go next winter.

The Bessie Ellen was built at Plymouth in 1906 and loaded 150 tons in the coasting trade. Her fi rst owner was Captain Chichester and he was killed in an accident at Sharpness lock in 1912. His wife, a milliner, took over running the ketch and her sons continued until they sold her in 1947. She became the Danish Forsoget and she traded in the Baltic islands until 1978. In 2000, Nikki Alford bought Bessie Ellen, only her fourth owner, then just a bare hull, and she was rigged out at Ring Andersen’s yard in Svendborg.

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - May 2019 Issue
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