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Hawaii News | Whatever Happened To

Falls of Clyde backers committed to restoration


Question: What ever happened to the Falls of Clyde?

Answer: The once majestic four-masted ship’s rigging is down, and its unsightly rusting hull still sits in Honolulu Harbor, berthed at Pier 7 next to the former Hawaii Maritime Center. But it’s in no condition to receive visitors.

The Bishop Museum sold the ship, touted as the only remaining four-masted sailing oil tanker, to the Friends of the Falls of Clyde in 2008 for $1.

At that time, the museum estimated restoration, including rust removal, would have cost $32 million.

The museum had incurred more than $2 million in preservation costs over the 10 years prior to 2008.

The Friends of the Falls of Clyde will be bringing in a project manager in October to oversee internal work on the ship, shoring up structural pieces, said Bruce McEwan, president of the friends group’s board of directors.

The organization has applied for a $455,000 grant from Save America’s Treasures through the National Park Service, McEwan said.

"Whatever we receive, we’ll be looking for matching funds," he said.

McEwan estimates the cost of two months of drydock and basic repairs to stabilize the hull and move it into the preservation stage would run roughly $1 million.

He estimated it will take five years to see significant changes "in the way she looks," and complete restoration will probably take a decade.

But he said the ship will probably be safe for visitors in less than five years, with enough topside work to attract people.

The Friends of the Falls of Clyde is also working to prepare materials to launch a major fundraising campaign.

Volunteers are also preparing the vessel for the major repair work by beefing up the electrical and lighting systems, McEwan said.

He said the Friends received the ship in an "uncared-for state."

"We’ve been giving it as much TLC as we can," he said. A fund of $500,000 was donated several years ago, and most of the money remains in the bank.

"I see the Falls of Clyde as a clear symbol of part of Hawaii’s maritime history," said McEwan, who shares its Scottish heritage and met his wife on the ship in 1976.

The Falls of Clyde, sold to an agent of Capt. William Matson, was built in Scotland in 1878 and arrived in Honolulu in 1898. It was used to carry sugar from Hilo to San Francisco until 1906, then sold and converted into an oil tanker in 1907.

This update was written by Leila Fujimori. Suggest a topic for "Whatever Happened To …" by writing Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail


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