The 85-foot A.J. Meerwald—the state of New Jersey’s officially designated tall ship—is a restored 1928 Oyster Schooner. Oyster schooners are a distinct type of vessel that evolved to meet the needs of the local Delaware Bay oyster fishery. Launched in 1928, the A. J. Meerwald was one of hundreds of schooners built along South Jersey’s Delaware Bay shore before the decline of the shipbuilding industry that coincided with the Great Depression. Today, the schooner is a sailing classroom promoting ecological and historical awareness of the Delaware Bay region, sailing from its home port in Bivalve, NJ.
The ship has had a varied and interesting history. During World War II, the A.J. Meerwald was commandeered by the U.S. Coast Guard, and was outfitted as a fireboat. After the war, the ship was used again as an oyster dredge, and later for surf clamming. In the 1970s she was essentially retired, but in 1989 she was donated to the Delaware Bay Schooner Project, currently the Bayshore Discovery Project, where she was restored to her original glory. The A. J. Meerwald was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
The current mission of Bayshore Discovery Project is “to motivate people to take care of the environment, the history, and the culture of the Bayshore Region through education, preservation, and example.” The project has now evolved into more than the Meerwald, and there now is a museum, cafe, shore-based education programs, and other events. The Meerwald also offers group and public sails, and visits festivals such as RiverFest . RiverFest visitors will have the opportunity to reserve space on the Meerwald, where they can enjoy the majestic views of the Bronx and New Jersey sides of the Hudson from the Meerwald’s spacious 85-foot by 23-foot wooden deck, which holds a maximum of 41 people (including children). Barring dangerous conditions as determined by the Captain, the Meerwald sails rain or shine.