Save the Schooner Western UnionThis is to the people of Key West, the State of Florida, and those who love maritime history. It is about the Schooner Western Union, official flagship of the City of Key West and the State of Florida. For 75 years, the Western Union has been a vital part of Key West’s history, from its days as a communications provider and protector of American shipping to today’s role as the graceful old lady that takes students, locals and tourists on inspiring and educational sailings. She is the last ‘Coasting Schooner’ in Florida; a testament to the state’s rich maritime history.
The Schooner Western Union is the last tall ship built in Monroe County. She was constructed and launched off Simonton Beach in Key West in 1939, just in time to be part of the informal picket fleet protecting our commerce from Nazi U-boat raiders during WWII. After the war, she helped develop Florida’s economy by laying and maintaining communication cables from Florida to South and Central America, the Gulf States and the Caribbean island nations.
In 2007, the schooner was donated to the all-volunteer Schooner Western Union Preservation Society (SWUPS) debt free so that contributions from the public would be charitable and used to maintain her. The reality is that old wooden ships always require preservation to remain a part of our living history. With the support of individual and company donors, the Historic Florida Keys Foundation and the Monroe County TDC, the first phase of a comprehensive and necessary refitting was completed in 2011. Following 2 years of successful operations, Western Union is forced to rest in her slip at the Historic Key West Seaport. She now must enter the second phase of a complete refit in order to meet the Coast Guard requirements for passenger ships before she can sail again. Schooner Western Union requires financial assistance to meet the expense of this next phase.
The Society is sad to report that the Western Union is at a crisis point. The ship is essentially out of money, particularly because it can no longer generate daily revenue from sailings. Now is the time when we will determine whether we keep this most important part of our seagoing heritage alive, watch her sink, or possibly leave our island and state. What we need is $60,412 in funding for the next 12 months so we have time to complete requests for and receive funding from the sources we expect to support the major refit. If we are not able to raise the $60,412 to keep us afloat until we get the funding for the refit, the Western Union will be repossessed and either salvaged or sent to a foreign port with more interest in her history than we have.
The Key West Citizen had a great article on the schooner and our efforts.
This is a link to the article: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bxf-Khx6CZrQN201OUdSbFFLS1U/edit?usp=sharing
The SWUPS Board recognizes that the Western Union is special! We believe you know it, too. In order to successfully request funds from the State government and other funding sources, we need to show that we have community support. Each board member has already contributed to this effort and is tirelessly raising awareness of the ship’s current situation.
We have established this site where Key Westers, Floridians and history enthusiasts can aid this historic vessel. Please click the “Make a Donation” link. Every donation brings the ship closer to our goal. With your backing, the Schooner Western Union will again ply our beautiful waters, serve our locals and educate our visitors as only a historic vessel like the Schooner Western Union can.
If you have questions please call (305) 292-1208. Thank you for your support.
The Board Members of the Schooner Western Union Preservation Society