Save the Schooner Western Union

This 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:

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


Recent Donations

Name Amount Comment
Kim Harn $50.00
Keith & Yvette Rainey $100.00 We were married aboard the Western Union on a sunset cruise 15 years ago today. Best wishes for getting her back to work.
Judy Rosenthal $50.00 I sailed on Western Union in 1976. We sailed from Annapolis to Norfolk and we were part of a tall ship water balloon battle with miniature cannon. She was stripped down to the studs, prior to being refurbished. Best weekend of my life! Help save her!
Alina Davis $50.00 I was married on this ship and hope others will sail away in the sunset as I did.
Eric & Anastasia Wells $50.00 We had an amazing full moon voyage a couple of years ago. As tourists, we had no idea the ship was not running any longer. I am glad we checked back in and were able to help out a bit.
Deb Blockberger $20.00 Please keep her sailing. I have great memories of a sunset sail a couple years ago.
Don and Diana Schilling $100.00 Keep her floating! Good luck to all working so hard for her.
Jack Burrie $100.00 As a member of the Florida Keys Reef Lights Foundation ( I believe that supporting the schooner Western Union is equal in importance to preserving the 6 iron lighthouses of the Florida Keys.
Robert Kelly $50.00 Western Union was launched in the year I was born, and I have sailed on her twice while we lived in Key West. Preserve the Western Union!
Scott Schiller $25.00 KW wouldn't be the same without her.
Tom Cheche $200.00 Worked to save her the first time, 70's & 80's with Kraus and Oly. Let's keep the grand lady sailing.
Richard O'Brien $500.00
John Rehrig $100.00 We love this ship. We've sailed on it & admired from afar. A picture of the WU hangs in our house. I'm making this donation for my husband's birthday. I never know what to get him. Now get this ship back in the water so we can sail on her again. Jennifer
Darcy Wadsworth $100.00
Gerard De Modena $150.00 The SWU is an integral part of KW, and an integral part of my life. I have sailed aboard her numerous times. Now she waits patiently, hopefully, embarrassed, among the faster, younger, and shinier vessels of the new KW. After 75+ years of honorable serv
Tom Johnson $20.00 Proud to support preserving this beautiful and historic Key West treasure
David and Natalia Keyser $200.00
Rob Stevens $300.00
Stephen Bosley $100.00
Edgar C Godfrey III $20.00 What a treasure to be a part of!!
Mark Langley $100.00
R frances Regan $50.00 Love that schooner. Hope to sail again on her.
William Barry $200.00 The state of Florida has only one Flagship; the Schooner Western Union. This famous sailing vessel was built in the southern most city where she is home ported today. Let's keep this maritime history sailing for future generations to enjoy.
paul and mary vandagriff $100.00 we were married on this wonderful ship on the 28th of Nov 31 years ago. I hope you can save her.
Michael Porter $50.00
Sandler Training, Boulder, CO bolak $100.00 We're so grateful to have enjoyed this vessel on so many different occasions, you said vessel
Capts. John H Kraus & R Kendal "Oly" Oldroyd Kraus & Oldroyd $1000.00 We saved her the first time (1973-1984). Now it's your turn. KEEP HER SIALING!!!
Chuck Ramsey $1000.00
John Gruener $100.00 I crewed on the Western Union in 2001. Wonderful ship. I hope it stays in Key West!
Ben & Terri Mixter $100.00 Let's keep our flagship sailing!!
Steve DeLuca $50.00
Brenda and Angelo Boncore $100.00 Being married by Capt. Lenn aboard such a breathtakingly beautiful and wonderfully Historic tall ship is a memory we are incredibly honored by and will cherish forever. Please help in any way possible to save her from extinction!! Thank you Capt. Lenn
Vicki Rose $20.00
Anonymous Donor $20.00
Roger Bernstein $150.00 This beautiful ship is ours. Let's keep her sailing.
Alicia French $25.00 Love these sailing ships in Key West. She's a beauty and deserves restoration.
DJ Russell $50.00 My wife, Heather, and I had our first date on the Sunset Sail. I will never forget all of the beautiful colors in the sky and how even more beautiful she looks! Hopefully one day we can sail again. Thanks for the memories!
Governor Stone $100.00 The Friends of the Governor Stone, the other remaining sailing coastal schooner in Florida, support your efforts to preserve this beautiful vessel.
Bertram Parker $100.00
Dan Goleach $50.00 I have admired this ship since first coming here in 1983. I have sailed on her, and want to see her back in the water sailing again.
Jim Bolin $110.00
Mark Songer $20.00
Matt Conn $100.00
John Dolan-Heitlinger $800.00
Suite Dreams Inn $50.00
John Jones $100.00
Harry Privette Grace Spencer $20.00
Yvette & Keith Yvette & Keith $20.00 We were married on the Western Union so it has special meaning to us.
Catherine Stentzel $100.00
Rosanne and Bill Potter and McCarthy $100.00 This beauty belongs in Key West.
21 Azalea Drive, Key West, FL 33040