Scandalous Schooner Sails into St. John

The Amistad in Francis Bay Sunday. Photo credit: Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters

Everyone likes a good scandal, right?

For those of you on St. John, you may have noticed this incredible tall ship sailing the waters around the island the past few days – the Freedom Schooner Amistad.

The Amistad is a replica of the original vessel known for its 1839 mutiny by captured Mende slaves who took control of the ship off the coast of Cuba. The original ship set off an international legal battle following their capture by the Federal survey brig Washington near Montauk Point, Long Island, New York. It became a US Supreme Court case of 1841.

The Freedom Schooner Amistad is a 129-foot replica which was launched in Connecticut in May 2000. The goal of the Amistad was to travel as an educational ambassador, teaching lessons of history, cooperation and leadership in the many ports it visits.

Here’s where the scandal comes in…

(Disclaimer: Papa News of St. John is all over this Amistad scandal, so we have to give him a bit of credit for this story.)

Ok, so according to Papa News of St. John as well as the media in Connecticut, it seems as though the Amistad accepted at least $8 million in Connecticut state funds yet is unable to account for the money. It even lost its nonprofit status in 2012 after failing to file tax returns for three years. And to top it off, the tall ship – which by contract is supposed to be in Connecticut waters during hurricane season – sailed to Puerto Rico last summer right in the middle of hurricane season.

Oh and speaking of Puerto Rico – News of St. John happened to come across the Amistad docked in Old San Juan on February 15. At the time, it was flying the Puerto Rican flag, not the US or Connecticut flags. No bueno.

The Freedom Schooner Amistad in Puerto Rico on Feb. 15, 2014.
The Freedom Schooner Amistad in Puerto Rico on Feb. 15, 2014 – still claiming to be a nonprofit.

As you can see in Captain John Brandi’s picture above, the Puerto Rican flag has since been removed. The Amistad is now flying both the US and Connecticut flags.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that this schooner is up to no good. What are your thoughts?

Want to learn more about the Amistad’s story? Click here to visit the National Park Service’s page dedicated to the ship. Want to know more about its scandal in the States? Click here and here.

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