The Spirit of South Carolina
A New Chapter or the Final Voyage? By Dan Dickison The Spirit of South Carolina. Unless some providential solution is devised in the near term, the Spirit will be sold, and one probable consequence is that it may sail away from the Low Country for good. Photo courtesy South Carolina Maritime Foundation.
n a cold, clear morning in early January, the Spirit of South Carolina tall ship quietly slipped its moorings and moved out into Charleston Harbor. Aboard the 140-foot schooner, a skeletal crew—assisted by 19 youngsters from a local private school—methodically raised the sails. Then, the traditional wooden vessel struck a majestic pose, gradually disappearing through the harbor’s jetties and into the Atlantic under full sail. It was an impressive sight; one that locals here have been privileged to witness countless times over the past five years. But it was also a bittersweet vignette for anyone aware of the ship’s shaky status as the centerpiece in a legal battle involving its owner— the South Carolina Maritime Foundation—several of the foundation’s board members, and the bank that holds a $2.2-million loan on the ship. The situation is complicated and far from resolved, but one aspect is clear: unless some providential solution is devised in the near term, the Spirit will be sold, and one probable consequence is that it may
sail away from the Low Country for good. Word came to the public in mid-December that the foundation—the organization that built the ship and has operated it for the past five years—was in default on a loan from its principal creditor, T.D. Bank. The bank had filed suit against the foundation and three of its board members who are guarantors on that loan. It was astonishing news for some and less surprising for others, but either way, it didn’t bode well for a ship that has come to be revered by sailors and non-sailors alike across the Palmetto State. Just days later, an op-ed appeared in Charleston’s daily newspaper, written by the chairman of the foundation’s board, Teddy Turner, Jr. “Many have been surprised and saddened by recent reports that the South Carolina Maritime Foundation has plans to sell our tall ship…” wrote Turner. “This has not been an easy decision, yet one forced by the financial strains of building and operating a tall ship in current economic times.”
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