History & Specifications
The A.J. Meerwald is a Delaware Bay Oyster Schooner, a distinct vessel that evolved to meet the needs of the local oyster fishery. The A.J. Meerwald, launched in 1928, was one of hundreds of schooners built along South Jersey’s Delaware Bay before the decline of the shipbuilding industry during Great Depression. The A.J. Meerwald embodies the true spirit of the schooner; adapted to efficiently fulfill the prevailing conditions and specific demands of her native waters. While there were once as many as five hundred schooners sailing ‘up the Bay’ to catch oysters, now there are only a handful of converted schooners still harvesting oysters.
1928: The Meerwald family of South Dennis commissioned Charles H. Stowman & Sons shipyard to build the A.J. Meerwald. She was a bald headed (without topmasts), gaff riffed oyster dredge. The oystering gear consisted of a winder, or gas powered winch, for hauling in the dredges.
1942: In June the Maritime Commission commandeered the A.J. Meerwald under the War Powers Act. She was turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard and outfitted as a fireboat.
1947: In January the A.J. Meerwald was returned to the Meerwald family. Eight months later they sold the vessel to Clyde A. Phillips who used her as an oyster dredge under power. The winder installed for dredging consisted of a power takeoff mounted forward of the engine. She became the Clyde A. Phillips.
1959: Ownership passed to Cornelius (Nicky) Campbell who outfitted her for surf clamming. During the 1960’s she was owned by American Clam and operated primarily as a clam dredge into the late 1970’s. She was eventually retired until her donation to Bayshore Center at Bivalve in 1989.
1988: Bayshore Center at Bivalve was formed and the Clyde A. Phillips was given to the project by Captain John Gandy.
1992: Clyde A. Phillips was lifted by crane from the river and set in Bivalve, NJ for restoration.
1995: Clyde A. Phillips was rechristened and launched as the A.J. Meerwald and added to the National Register of Historic Places. She offers Public Sails, Charters, Family and Youth Camps, as well as Adult and Youth Education Sails throughout the Delaware River and Bay area, and along the Atlantic Coast.
1998: Governor Whitman designated the A.J. Meerwald New Jersey’s Official Tall Ship.
Sparred Length: 115 feet
Length on Deck: 85 feet
Draft: 6 feet (without Centerboard)
12 feet (with Centerboard down)
Beam: 22 feet 3 inches
Rig Height 70 feet
Freeboard 4 feet
Sail Area 3,562 sq. feet
Gross Tonnage 57 tons
The A.J. Meerwald was launched on September 7, 1928 by Charles H. Stowman & Sons at Dorchester, NJ. She was built a wood centerboard schooner with low freeboard and a raked transom stern designed for oyster dredging under sail and power. She had minimal draft, considerable beam and a flush deck from stem to stern. Her original sail rig, as evidenced in photographs taken during her first oystering season in 1929, typified the new style schooners; bald-headed (without topmasts), gaff rigged, with a large ‘gloriana peaked’ mainsail, a smaller foresail, and spike bowsprit supporting a single large club staysail.
The Schooner is registered as 76.1’ between perpendiculars, 22.3’ beam, 6’ depth of hold, 46 net tons and 57 gross tons. She measures 85’ on deck and 115’ overall when fully rigged. Her construction was/remains ‘oak on oak’ meaning oak planks laid on oak frames, as was tradition in Dorchester built vessels. She has relatively light scantlings, no knees and no horntimber which is also characteristic of Dorchester Schooners.
Find out more about the restoration and special features of the A.J. Meerwald.