Gazela Primeiro: Philadelphia's Tall Ship
The Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild (PSPG) was founded in 1971 as the Heritage Ship Guild of the Port of Philadelphia. While its mission has always been to preserve historic vessels, it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the Guild took on the responsibility of maintaining Gazela Primeiro, and in 1988, acquired ownership outright. (The Guild also maintains the 1902 tugboat Jupiter.)
What makes the Guild unusual is that it goes far beyond maintaining these historic vessels. The Guild actively sails them. After donating just 50 hours of their time, volunteers qualify to crew aboard either vessel. Gazela’s volunteer crew sails the Eastern Seaboard each summer and has welcomed visitors aboard in ports from Newfoundland to New Orleans.
The Guild relies on donations of time, materials and funds to carry out its mission, and has just one employee who leads the volunteers in ship preservation projects. But wooden ships periodically require attention beyond the scope of even skilled volunteers, and it’s been 20 years since Gazela’s hull was rebuilt—a testimony to her sturdy construction by Portuguese shipbuilders over a hundred years ago. The hull and other support timbers are now in need of comprehensive restoration. The Guild is presently raising the funds that will address these issues and ensure the ship’s continued vitality for years to come.
— ERIC LORGUS, PSPG PRESIDENT
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