BOOTHBAY, ME — One big step has been completed in the extensive rehabilitation of the historic schooner Ernestina-Morrissey, after she was put back in the water on Tuesday.

An online post from the group working to restore the 19th-century vessel said she was successfully launched and was floating free in Boothbay, Maine at 12:56 p.m. on Aug. 30.

According to the update on the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association website, the crew called it a "historic moment" and said the Ernestina is "now closer than ever to heading south," presumably hinting at its return to home port in New Bedford.

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But the post also noted that the work is not yet over.

"The crew will still be very busy at the shipyard," the update reads.

Built in 1894 for the Gloucester fishing fleet, the Ernestina-Morrissey sailed to the Arctic under Captain Robert Bartlett, reaching within 600 miles of the North Pole.

She also brought immigrants from Cape Verde to the U.S. before being returned to New Bedford in 1982 as a gift from the Cape Verdean people.

The Ernestina-Morrissey was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1990 and helped educate sailors up and down the east coast as a sail training ship and floating museum until 2005, when she was not granted coast guard certification due to her deteriorating condition.

A massive project to rehabilitate the historic vessel has been ongoing since then.

In 2018, a pile of lumber set aside for the project by the city of New Bedford went missing after it was apparently given away.

An investigation into the incident by the city and by the Bristol County District Attorney's office found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, although the person who ended up with the lumber sold it for $18,500.

On Tuesday, the crew also posted a video showing the Ernestina floating next to the dock.

Watch the video:

Once completed, the schooner will return to New Bedford and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy will use it for education and training purposes, according to a bill passed by the state legislature in 2020.

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