Spirit of South Carolina is a 140-foot, two-masted topsail schooner. She gets her name from the passion that built her. South Carolinian shipwrights and volunteers laid each plank and drove every nail just steps from where she’s docked today in downtown Charleston.
Frames, planks and interior finish were shaped from reclaimed, South Carolina Live Oak, Cypress and Long Leaf Yellow Pine. Extensive varnish work showcases the raw beauty of these native woods and the fine craftsmanship joining it all together.
With a massive main sail and fisherman staysail, Spirit’s silhouette is unmistakable. And with six sails and graceful, sleek sheer, she’s fast. She was built to accommodate 21 overnight passengers and is well equipped for long-distance passages. Though she’s spent the past few years cruising Charleston Harbor, she has the potential to sail anywhere in the world. Twin diesel engines assist when pure sail isn’t enough.
Today, crew maintains Spirit to yacht-quality finish and she’s as beautiful as she is capable. Here are some technical specs:
Length Overall: 140 feet
Length On Deck: 90 feet 8 inches
Beam: 23 feet 8 inches
Draft: 10 feet 4 inches
Tonnage: 95,800 pounds
Sail Plan: Staysail, Jib, Main Gaff Topsail, Fisherman Staysail
Power: Twin 235 horsepower Cummins Diesel engines
Spirit honors Charleston’s once-booming, but largely ignored, shipbuilding industry. During the 18th and 19th century, the rise of plantation-style agriculture provided social prestige and fast money that shipbuilding could not. Charleston’s elite was largely uninterested in the bustling activity along the waterfront.
Even today, visitors and citizens touring the city’s antebellum homes, plantations and churches find little reminder of Charleston’s historic seaport and shipbuilding past. But when you look out over the harbor and see the procession of commercial ships, you are reminded of the importance of maritime commerce and travel to Charleston. Sadly, among the many historic sites in and around the city, few pay tribute to the Charleston’s maritime heritage.
And so Spirit was born from the desire to revive and honor Charleston’s forgotten shipbuilding history.
Shipwright Mark Bayne orchestrated the six-year construction of Spirit, which came to life, frame by frame, on a vacant lot-turned-shipyard right here in downtown Charleston. A community came together, and hundreds turned up to get involved. In 2007, Spirit was launched and a new story began.
Bayne modeled Spirit along the lines of famed Charleston-built, 1879 pilot schooner, Frances Elizabeth. He used drawings uncovered from Smithsonian archives. Elements of that fast, capable and enduring pilot schooner were proudly integrated into Spirit’s construction. Spirit looks much like Frances Elizabeth did in 1879.
Spirit sails today as a symbol of pride for our state, and a source of revived interest in our nautical history to be shared with a new generation of sailors, visitors and students. She is perhaps the single-most visible piece of Charleston maritime heritage we have. Now, let’s keep the Spirit alive!
Take A Look At The Ship Being Built