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 can report that the major refit has begun in the Marpro boatyard in Tarpon Springs.  The State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Historical Resources has awarded us a $500,000 grant and the City of Key West approved a $250,000 matching grant to fund this major refit.  We expect to back in Key West carrying passengers in the summer of 2017.  

In the meantime, we need to cover some operating expenses not covered by the grants, particularly the cost of insurance. If you can help us with those expenses we will be deeply grateful.  Once we are operating again our need for donation will be greatly reduced.  

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

We are also periodically updating our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/schoonerwesternunion/ 

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

The Schooner Western Union Preservation Society is a 501(c)(3) not-for profit-organization FEI # 20-5958968.   A COPY OF OUR OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE FLORIDA DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING (800) 435-7352. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT BY THE STATE.

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