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Group hopes to raise money to get Falls of Clyde shipshape

By June Watanabe


Question: Every time I go to the Aloha Tower area, my heart breaks to see the condition of the Falls of Clyde. We visited the East Coast, and at every port we visited, there were beautiful, well-kept three- and four-masted schooners representing their cities. What’s happening with our Falls of Clyde?

Answer: The Friends of Falls of Clyde is continuing to seek funds to restore the 133-year-old ship, built in Scotland in 1878.

The 280-foot-long ship was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989 but has deteriorated over the years because of a lack of funds to maintain it.

“The Friends of Falls of Clyde has developed a long-term strategic plan that eventually will lead to the restoration of the ship,” said Bruce McEwan, president of the nonprofit organization that assumed ownership of the vessel in 2008, after the Bishop Museum announced plans to sink it because it could no longer afford to keep it or find a buyer.

The ship, described as the “only surviving iron-hulled four-masted full-rigged ship and the only surviving sail-driven oil tanker in the world,” was given to the museum and opened to the public at Honolulu Harbor in 1968.

It was transferred to the museum’s Hawaii Maritime Center in 1988 and closed to the public in 2007.

Volunteers, mainly the Friends’ 11 board members, are working on small “cosmetic projects,” McEwan said.

They recently completed laying down a plywood deck to make it safer to work on the ship, which is docked at Pier 7, adjacent to the also-closed maritime center.

For now there is a “continual flow of small donations” that allows work to be done, McEwan said.

It helps that the Friends received “a large pot of money” — about $475,000 — from the Bishop Museum last year. That was the amount left over from a $500,000 endowment by the late Robert Pfeiffer, former president of Matson Navigation Co., for the ship’s upkeep. It was Capt. William Matson of Matson Navigation who bought the Falls of Clyde in 1899 and brought it to Honolulu Harbor.

McEwan said the Friends is working with a consultant to put together a capital campaign that “we hopefully can kick off later in the year.” It is looking at between $2 million to $7 million to take the ship to dry dock.

Initially, the plan for dry-docking was to do an assessment and “a little patching up,” McEwan said.

However, the plan now is to “go in for a period of time and have some significant work done on the hull.”


If you would like to help restore the ship, donations can be made online at or by check sent to Friends of Falls of Clyde, P.O. Box 4674,

Honolulu HI 96812. Or you can volunteer to help with maintenance work; call 526-1559.

QUESTION: What is happening with the Hawai‘i Maritime Center?

ANSWER: The Bishop Museum continues to hold and pay the lease for the center’s location at Pier 7, but it’s unlikely the center will open any time soon.

The center’s website says simply, “Bishop Museum will be temporarily ceasing public operations at its Hawai‘i Maritime Center, effective May 1, 2009.”

Blair Collis, the museum’s chief executive officer and president, said he couldn’t comment on the status of the center “at this time,” but did say the museum and new state Harbors Division administrators are “jointly assessing the lease rent, so that’s given impetus to the desire to discuss future plans.”

If Bishop Museum elects to give up its 65-year lease, which expires May 31, 2053, the Harbors Division “will determine the best possible use of the property,” a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation’s Harbors Division told us.

“Given the location of this prime property near Aloha Tower Marketplace, there is interest from a variety of different operations, but no action has been taken yet,” he said.


Write to “Kokua Line” at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd. 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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