During a public forum hosted by the Alliance for a Livable Newport on Monday night at the Newport Public Library, several members involved with the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry Tall Ship project were able to give members of the community an overview of the ship's journey to Newport’s shores.
The ship, a 207-foot, three-masted steel masterpiece, is scheduled for completion in early July 2013, said Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island chairman Bart Dunbar. The hull of the ship, which is already constructed, was towed down from Canada and is now undergoing modifications and improvements at Promet Marine in Providence.
“It is not lost on us that the state of Rhode Island needs a symbol for its maritime history,” Dunbar said. “Newport needs a symbol for its waterfront and vitality.”
Dunbar stressed that the ship would not be built as a replica of what the Oliver Hazard Perry looked like in the 18th century. Instead, the ship will be constructed with state of the art steel work by teaming up with the “most modern manufacturers.”
Plans for the ship include splitting time in the Caribbean during the winter and Rhode Island in the summer, with periods of transition during the times between.
A key element of the project is partnering with other Rhode Island institutions, Dunbar said.
“We’re not trying to start a stand-alone school,” he said. “We provide a platform … we provide an experiential part on that ship.”
Schools and insitutions around Rhode Island are welcome to incorporate the tall ship into their curriculums, such as classes in Newport schools, Salve Regina University and the University of Rhode Island. “We’re making their programs better,” Dunbar said.
Newport School Committee member Sandra J. Flowers, who attended the forum, said she was excited for the opportunity presented to Newport students. She said she envisions endless possibilities for cross-curricular incorporation of the ship, starting with Newport’s youngest students.
Betsey Hyman, educational coordinator of the ship, said Superintendent John Ambrogi is onboard with collaboration between Newport schools and the Oliver Hazard Perry. The program will work in Newport County first, and then expand outward, she said.
“We need to excite young children first,” Hyman said. “They need to know what this is all about.”
Aside from opportunity to expose elementary, middle and high school students to the educational possibilities of the ship, Hyman said adult education classes could also incorporate the ship into their curriculum.
Captain Rick Williams said that hopefully a majority of the construction would be completed by the end of 2011, allowing them to “march into 2012 with good momentum,” before completing the ship in 2013. Williams said they are making the ship as accessible as possible for .