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Sail into History on the Schooner Western Union

The Official Flagship of Key West and the State of Florida


From the moment you step aboard you’ll know there’s no other sailing vessel in the world like the Schooner Western Union. As the last tall ship built in Key West, she marks the end of the era of working coastal schooners. A voyage on the Schooner Western Union is a unique opportunity to sail into history.

Built in Key West in 1939, she is one of the oldest working wooden schooners in the United States. Constructed to tend the Western Union cable lines, today she offers a mix of romance, fun and excitement that could only be offered by THE premier sailing vessel of the Florida Keys.

Built and ported here in Key West, the Schooner Western Union was launched on April 7, 1939 as a working schooner. She sailed the Caribbean and South Atlantic until 1974, logging over 30,000 miles in the service of the Western Union Company. With a 24 foot beam and drawing only 7½ feet, the Schooner Western Union was designed to maintain communication cables in the shallow Gulf waters between Key West and Cuba. She was commissioned by Thompson Enterprises under contract with Western Union Company and launched off Simonton Beach. She is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

She was involved in a standoff with Cuban gun boats, participated in the Mariel Boat Lift and also served as a training vessel for troubled youths for the “Vision Quest Group”. She has been brought back to Key West and now belongs to the community.

The Schooner Western Union is the flagship for the city of Key West and, in 2012, was officially designated the flagship of the Sate of Florida.

As you sail across the aqua waters of the Gulf of Mexico, you are transported back to a time when life was simple but difficult, and the passage of time was relatively unimportant. Our award winning crew insures the safety and comfort of our guests. Fresh conch chowder, a coupon for a delicious slice of key lime pie and ice cold beverages compliment each evening outing. Live musicians and the releasing of homing doves ensure an unforgettable experience. The life long lasting impression that sailing on this historic vessel makes on children is readily evident. They cannot wait to get home and tell everyone how the captain allowed them to steer the Schooner Western Union.

Designer: Mr Heber Elroy Arch, Grand Cayman, British West Indies
Length: Overhall: 130 ft.
Beam: 23 ft., 6 in.
Draft: 7ft., 9 in.
Rig: Gaff mainsail and foresail
Sail Area: 5200 sq. ft.
Fuel: 6 gal./engine/hour
Displacement: 218 tons
Tonnage: 91.91 gross
Spars: Solid Douglas Fir
Sail Area: 5200 sq. ft.
Construction: Carvel-planked yellow pine over Madeira mahogany frames on 5-inch centers
Power: Twin GM 4-71 series diesel
Generator: 8kw diesel
Speed: 8 knots under power,
12.8 kph under sail
Fuel Tanks: 4 steel; 300 gal. total
Water Tanks: Aluminum, 1200 gal.
Ballast: 27 tons, lead