Key West Maritime Historical Society Collection of Marine Paintings
On April 7th, 1939, a large crowd had gathered at the waters edge where Simonton Street opens on to the Key West harbor. At 4P.M. the new Schooner WESTERN UNION slid down the ways into the water as the towns people cheered and cheered. The vessel had been commissioned by Thompson Enterprises of Key West to service a cable contract for the Western Union Telegraph Company repairing and maintaining undersea telegraph cables from key West to Cuba and around the Caribbean.
WESTERN UNION'S contruction was begun in the Cayman island where native mahogany and yellow pine were used for her timbers. She was brought to Key West to be finished by Cayman Islanders and local shipwrights. When launched, the vessel was 92ft. Length Over All (L.O.A.), 23.5ft. Beam, and a draft of 8ft. that allowed the ship into shallow water. An unusual feature in this schooner is two engines and twin propellers wich gives her great maneuverability. With her simple rig of marconi main and fore sails and a fore staysail, WESTERN UNION would drag a grappling hook along the bottom of the sea until the cable was snagged and could be hauled on deck for repair. Not an easy job in the open sea with the boat pitching and heaving. With a stout and dedicated crew, the WESTERN UNION toiled for over three decades and was finally retired from service in 1974. With satellites circling the earth, undersea telegraph was obsolete.
The ship was sold to a group of investors who added a main topmast and topsail, a long bowsprit and jibboom with several new headsails that dramaticaly changed the ships profice into that of a traditional coasting schooner. WESTERN UNION was then put in the charter business and ran for many years on day and sunset sails. Some memorable sailing were under a full moon with live music and dancing on the deck.
Christened KEY WEST FLAGSHIP, the Schooner WESTERN UNION is currently out of the water and undergoing restoration so this historic ship may continue sailing and bringing delight to thousands and pride to her home port of Key West.
Fine-art giclee print is available - email the artist for pricing.