|The full-rigged ship Wavertree was built by Oswald Mordaunt & Company in
Southampton, England, in 1885 and was one of the last large sailing ships built of
riveted wrought iron. She had been commissioned by R.W. Leyland & Company of
Liverpool, but Chadwick & Pritchard of Liverpool purchased her before she was
launched on December 10, 1885. The new owners named her Southgate. In 1888
she was repurchased by R.W. Leyland and Co. and renamed Wavertree for the
Wavertree district of Liverpool. South Street Seaport Museum has her original bell,
which is inscribed Southgate.
Wavertree was intended to carry jute used to make rope and burlap bags between
current day Bangladesh and Scotland. After almost two years, she entered the tramp
trades, taking whatever cargoes were available in Europe, the east and west coasts
of America, South America, India and Australia. Wavertree circumnavigated nearly
30 times with cargoes of coal, kerosene, cotton, tea, coffee, molasses and timber.
She made one known call to New York, arriving Jan. 14, 1895, with a load of nitrate
from Chile and departing March 21 for Calcutta.
In December 1910, Wavertree was rounding Cape Horn with a cargo of coal for
Chile, when her mainmast came crashing down, bringing with it the upper 50 feet of
the foremast and 100 feet of mizzenmast - injuring many of her crew, several
severely. With her splintered spars and missing rigging, she limped into the
Falkland Islands. Rather than replace the rig, her owners sold the hull for use as a
floating warehouse in Punta Arenas, Chile. Next came conversion into a sand barge
at Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1947, and a renaming to Don Ariano N. She was
discovered there by Karl Kortum, director of the San Francisco Maritime Museum
and founder of the National Maritime Historical Society.
In 1968, Wavertree was acquired by South Street Seaport Museum. She was moved
to the Arsenal Naval Buenos Aires for restoration and in 1969 the ship was towed to
New York. The vessel was added to the National Register of Historic Places on
June 13, 1978. The ship underwent a partial restoration in 2000, running more than
$1 million. But that was a small job compared with the over $13 million restoration
in 2015-2016, performed at Staten Island’s Caddell Dry Dock and Repair Co. Inc.
and funded by New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, city council, and the
office of Manhattan’s borough president. The restoration included the renewals of
several wrought iron hull plates below the waterline with steel, a new ballast
system, updated electrical systems, removal of the sand hopper gear and bulkheads
installed in Argentina and complete rebuilding of her original ‘tween deck layout,
and a cathodic protection system. The restoration also included rigging down all
spars and wire rigging and renewing the rotten timber topmasts and topgallant masts
and yards on all 3 masts, stripping and renewing all service and replacing all blocks
and cordage. The restoration started in May 2015, and ended in 25 September 2016,
when the ship returned to South Street Seaport museum.
Wavertree is 279 feet LOA with 40 foot beam, 27 foot draft and is 2118 gross tons.
Her main mast rises 155 feet from the deck and 184 feet from the waterline. Her sail
area is approximately 31,500 square feet divided among 26 sails originally: 4 head-
sails, 15 square-sails, 1 spanker and 6 stay-sails. She was sailed with 3 officers and
21 sailors. Most sailing ships her size and rig had split topgallant sails, but not
Wavertree, ''the most awkward, workmaking, man-killing rig a big Cape Horner
could have,'' says marine historian Alan Villiers.