Florida Keys News
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Hindu returns to subtropical waters
Historic schooner joins fleet of tall ships at Key West Bight

A transoceanic trade vessel, ship of war and survivor of passage through multiple owners for nearly nine decades, the historic 79-foot schooner now floats serenely at a Key West dock, ready for her next incarnation.

And within a month's time, the two-masted Hindu will carry paying passengers as the latest addition to the city's square and gaff-rigged tall sailing vessels, following nearly two years of intensive labor by members of a local family who believed in her past and her future.

"It didn't seem like it needed so much work, but once you get into it, the rot just follows," said architect Bill Rowan, who bankrolled the restoration, working with his son Josh and daughter-in-law Bonnie.

Josh Rowan built the foremast of high-end Douglas fir with his bare hands.

"It has been the biggest investment we have ever made; we have invested everything in it," said Bonnie Rowan.

"This is something bigger than us that will last into the future. What better investment to make than a true piece of American history."

A few finishing touches remain, as well as a Coast Guard inspection and some minor business details. But the family estimates the Hindu will be ready to sail sometime in October.

She was moved last month from the Stock Island Marina Village after six months of intensive labor done at Robbie's Boatyard.

The ship now is tied up next to the Key West Bight dockmaster's office.

"It's super-cool," said dockmaster Mark Tait. "That's what this is all about here. It's the historic seaport with the schooners, the old working ships, the crab boats; it's all part of the appearance."

When he sees the Hindu outside his office, Tait thinks of the other tall ships at the harbor -- the Western Union, America 2.0, Jolly Rover, the Appledore and the Adirondack, all ships capable of transporting tourists and locals to an age when sailing was not a luxury pastime but a necessity.

"I think of the old way of maritime living," said Tait.

This marks the second attempt -- by different owners -- to make a go of running the ship out of Key West.

Kevin "Foggy" Foley of Provincetown, Mass., rescued the vessel from the wrecker's dock in 2006, raising money for the project and rebuilding the vessel.

He ran excursion cruises in Provincetown and Key West, but financial troubles resulted in a bank taking over the ship in 2009.

Last year Rowan bought the boat, for which he acknowledged he paid a good and low price. Then he and his family members got to work restoring it once again, a project they described as a labor of love.

Boat designer William Hand laid the vessel's keel at Boothbay, Maine, in 1925, and it was christened "Princess Pat" in honor of Princess Patricia of Connaught, after whom a Canadian field regiment was named.

Used as a pleasure yacht, the Princess Pat was later named Saispas and then Anna Lee Ames, according to records kept by the Rowans.

It was purchased by a businessman named William A. Parker and in 1938 sailed to India as part of the U.S. spice trade in that region. He named her Hindu upon return from India.

The vessel of pleasure and then trade was soon to serve a different purpose, however, according to her official history.

The Hindu was commissioned in 1941 for military service, painted battleship gray and equipped with a machine gun.

With other private and merchant vessels, the Hindu prowled the Atlantic coast searching for German U-boats lurking close to the United States.

An engagement with one of the Nazi subs was documented.

After the war, the Hindu was berthed at Provincetown, and was one of the nation's first whale-watching boats under Capt. Justin Avellar.

Sunny Andracchio, a manager for Classic Harbor Lines, which operates the Adirondack III and the America 2.0, recognizes that the Hindu will represent competition for his vessels. But he welcomes the ship.

"For Key West I think it is very important to have this many schooners in one little harbor," said Andracchio, a veteran mariner who managed the Hindu for a year.

"It is very unusual. You wouldn't see that in many other places. The Hindu is a beautiful ship."

jdesantis@keysnews.com

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