Expert intends to save 1870 schooner sunk in Cortez

Expert intends to save 1870 schooner sunk in Cortez

That 70 foot piece of history is the “San Francesco,” an 1870 schooner docked at the Seafood Shack marina in Cortez that a downpour associated with Hurricane Hermine sank more than two months ago.On Monday, Stewart led an effort involving divers, submerged air bags and bilge pumps to get the San Francesco upright and floating again.is not a replica, Stewart said of the partially submerged schooner. the real deal. There aren many left on the planet. manages the Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage Boatworks, where he and volunteers restore wooden boats that predate the days of fiberglass.About two years ago, he became aware of the San Francesco languishing in a Clearwater harbor.Built during 1870 in Italy, the cargo freighter used to transport Italian marble to markets throughout the Mediterranean, Stewart said. Yet he learned the San Francesco also had a history of being later manned by characters who used it to deal in contraband such as firearms and elephant tusks.In 1965, a wealthy Italian family invested about $1 million to convert the ship into a private yacht, Stewart said.Her last voyage in 2007 included stops in Aruba, Jamaica, Key West and Clearwater, it just sat there and fell in disrepair while its owner was in Hungary, Stewart said.Stewart convinced the owner to let him take possession of the San Francesco, which he got towed to the Seaford Shack marina in Cortez.Several weeks ago, while dining at the Seafood Shack restaurant with his wife, Joe MacFarlane of Seminole noticed the sunken schooner and inquired about it. He connected with Stewart and volunteered to help make arrangements to retrieve the ship.On Monday, three divers from Bluewater Diving in Daytona Beach placed massive airbags beneath the tilted vessel and filled the bags from scuba tanks. The airbags lifted the ship while hoses attached to rented pumps removed water from the hull and sprayed it across the dock and back into Anna Maria Sound. Curt Bowen of the Bradenton based “Advanced Diver Magazine” recorded the effort to promote the restoration project.The return of high tide caused a slight setback. Stewart retrieved plywood from the FISH boatworks to patch some areas where the hull took on water. He expects to return with pumps today to get the vessel fully upright and floating.The next challenge involves raising an estimated $20,000 to get the San Francesco to the FISH Boatworks for her restoration. That will involve towing her to the Taylor Boatworks in Cortez, then using a crane to lift her and a hydraulic trailer, which will come from Texas, to transport her the quarter mile to FISH.Those arrangements have yet to be finalized and, once done, will be followed by restoration work that could cost $2.5 million.Stewart is admittedly upset that he has not received more support from Cortez residents. He hopes that support will be forthcoming once the San Francesco is high, dry and more visible.He sees her becoming flagship that could be used to promote causes such as water and marine conservation. He has put the ship in the ownership of a new nonprofit, the Cortez Classic Yacht Guild Inc., to finance the restoration.put my heart and soul into it, Stewart said. He acknowledges that he faces a lot of hard work ahead to restore the San Francesco majesty but he is willing to make the commitment. that is good is free and easy. /wrapper >
Expert intends to save 1870 schooner sunk in Cortez