Western Union plying Keys waters again

May 13, 2011 

The last tall ship assembled in Key West, the historic Schooner Western Union, has resumed passenger excursions following a two-year, $1 million renovation.

The 130-foot vessel, the flagship of the city of Key West, underwent an overhaul that included replacing numerous hull, transom and deck planks and refitting all electric, plumbing, engine and steering mechanisms.

Passengers can set sail on two-hour nightly sunset cruises that include complimentary refreshments, live music and an opportunity to help the crew raise the vessel’s sails. Cost is $59 per adult and $29 per child.

The schooner sets sail on Friday and Saturday nights with an on-board astronomer for a stargazing cruise from 9:30 to 11 p.m. Cost is $49 for adults and $19 for children.

The Western Union is also available for charters and weddings.

Originally launched in 1939, Western Union is the last surviving example of a traditional American coasting schooner. It served the Western Union Telegraph Co. for 35 years and is believed to be the world’s only surviving sailing cable ship.

Spearheaded by the nonprofit Schooner Western Union Preservation Society, the renovation was funded in part by a $405,000 grant from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, a $300,000 donation from the Historic Foundation of the Florida Keys and numerous contributions from Keys businesses and individuals.

Excursions depart from a dock at 201 William St. in Key West’s. Visit www.schoonerwesternunion.org. For reservations, call 292-1766.

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