Home » Have you ever… sailed on New Jersey’s official tall ship?

Have you ever… sailed on New Jersey’s official tall ship?

by Kim Robinson

When the ad appeared in my Facebook feed offering sailings on New Jersey’s official tall ship, I knew I wanted to book passage and immediately ordered two tickets. I then asked myself… what is a tall ship? 

A tall ship is a sailing vessel with at least two masts, according to Merriam-Webster; the A.J. Meerwald has three. Launched on August 31, 1928, the Meerwald is a 1928 gaff-rigged Oyster Schooner. It was commissioned by the Meerwald family and built at a cost of approximately $18,000. My neighbor and I boarded her from a dock behind the Trenton Thunder Stadium.

Now, let’s talk about oysters in the Delaware River. The Delaware has had oysters for a very long time, and it was the Lenni-Lenape that introduced oysters and oystering to the colonists. They were a big hit, and in 1719, New Jersey actually had to enact laws limiting the use of its oyster beds. Fast forward to the 1920’s and the oyster business was booming, with railroads allowing one-day delivery to Philadelphia and New York. But as we know, money and greed often lead to harm, and many of the oyster boats, including the Meerwald, turned to dredging, which basically uses a big rake that runs through the oyster beds, taking everything in its path.

In 1929, the Great Depression hit and the oyster industry tanked. The Meerwald, however, continued to sail, serving as a Coast Guard vessel during World War II. After the war, she became a clamming ship but was eventually left to rot, half sunk, in a Delaware riverbank. 

In 1986, work began to restore her. Now berthed at the Bayshore Center in Port Norris, NJ, she sails to various ports throughout the state, with her crew sharing her history and the history of the oyster industry. You can even bring snacks and drinks aboard. If you find the chance to sail the A.J. Meerwald, book your trip! You will not be disappointed!

For sailing and ticket information, see https://www.bayshorecenter.org/

All photos copyright ©K B Robinson Photography

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