The Schooner AJ Meerwald is New Jersey’s official Tall Ship. She is a restored oyster dredging schooner, whose home port is in Bivalve, New Jersey. Launched in 1928, AJ Meerwald was one of hundreds of schooners built along South Jersey’s Bayshore before the decline of the shipbuilding industry which coincided with the Great Depression.
Today, the AJ Meerwald is used by the Bayshore Center at Bivalve as a traveling classroom and vehicle to enjoy area’s waterways. The AJ Meerwald was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1995.
- Rig | Two-masted gaff schooner
- Tonnage | 57 gross registered tons
- Length | 85 feet (26 m) on deck, 115 feet (35 m) overall
- Beam | 22 feet (6.7 m)
- Height | 70 feet (21 m)
- Draft | 6 feet (1.8 m)
- Propulsion | Sail; auxiliary engine (John Deere 6068AFM 85, 230 hp)
- Sail plan | Mainsail, foresail, oversize jib
- Capacity | 41 passengers
- Notes | Oak hull; 3,562 square feet (330.9 m2) total sail area
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.
The AJ Meerwald was launched on September 7, 1928 by Charles H Stowman & Sons at Dorchester, NJ. She was built with 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 AJ Meerwald sails from ports around NJ, PA, DE and MD. These river sails are a wonderful way to experience local waterways and spend time with family and friends. Passengers can help the crew hoist the sails or simply relax and enjoy an unforgettable experience. For more information, click here!
The AJ Meerwald’s educational programming has been recognized nationally for its high-quality hands-on experience and the program is not just for children! The AJ Meerwald has provided educational sails to elected officials, academics, civic groups as well as schools and youth groups. For more information, click here!
The AJ Meerwald can be chartered for private events including birthday parties, weddings, corporate events, reunions, fundraisers, etc. Charters are 2 hours long and the ship programming can be tailored (within reason) to meet the needs of your group! For more information, click here!
The AJ Meerwald is a Delaware Bay Oyster Schooner, a distinct vessel that evolved to meet the needs of the local oyster fishery. The AJ 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 the Great Depression. The AJ 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 AJ Meerwald. She was a bald headed (without topmasts), gaff rigged 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 AJ 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 AJ 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 was renamed 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 AJ Meerwald and added to the National Register of Historic Places. She offers public sails, charters sails, education sails throughout the Delaware River and Bay area and along the Atlantic Coast.
- 1998 | Governor Whitman designated the AJ Meerwald New Jersey’s Official Tall Ship.