Model boat builder Ernestina’s popsicle stick on display in New Bedford


NEW BEDFORD – The hull made of thousands of coffee stirrers and popsicle sticks shaped into miniature pulleys is unique.

Julio Rebeiro “Rev” Gomes Jr. has built over 50 historic ship models in 25 years working from his home in Fairhaven, and his version of the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey completed in May 2003 is exhibited at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Collections manager Jordan Berson said it was a fine piece and a fine addition to the museum for its significance as the work of a local Cape Verdean model maker and as a model of the ‘Ernestina which has been described as a unique folk piece.

“We were sorely lacking in representation of the ship, so it’s great to have a model of the Ernestina on display in our Cape Verdean maritime gallery,” he said.

Scott Benson, right, takes a closer look at the alignment of the model schooner Ernestina made by Julio Gomes using popsicle sticks, after placing it inside the cabinet he has made for her on the second floor of the Lagoda Room inside the Whaling Museum

The model is approximately 4 1/2 feet long and 3 1/2 feet tall and has full rigging with figures of Cape Verdean sailors working on deck, authentic ship colors and miniature anchors, lanterns and canoes safety.

Gomes was born in New Bedford in 1948 and was a student of Cape Verdean model maker Joaquim “Pork Chop” Almeida (1889-1998) after watching him carve model ships on his back on South Second Street in New Bedford.

Almeida was born in São Vicente, Cape Verde, and assumed an important folk profile as an artist. His distinctive style incorporated the sawing and filing of found pieces of wood producing unique patterns of folk art.

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Gomes also used found materials for his scratch model of the Ernestina which took over three months to build. Gomes, who died in 2006, ran a second-hand store in New Bedford where he sold model boats he had built at his home in Fairhaven.

Museum staff collected the model of the Ernestina-Morrissey from the vendor at the First Church of the Nazarene on Hathaway Road for display at the museum.

Housed in a custom display case built by Scott Benson of South Dartmouth, it is displayed on the south balcony of the Bourne Building in the Cape Verde Maritime Gallery.

Jacob Mark, assistant curator, rolls a model of the schooner Ernestina made by Julio Gomes using popsicle sticks, which will be installed on the second floor of the Lagoda Room inside the Whaling Museum.

The Ernestina-Morrissey has a long and varied history as a fishing vessel, Arctic exploration vessel and more, according to curator of maritime history Michael Dyer. Originally Effie M. Morrissey, she was built in Essex in 1894.

Under the ownership of Captain Henrique Mendez (1880-1970) of Wareham and New Bedford, the Ernestina, renamed by Mendez after his first daughter, served as a Cape Verde liner from 1946 to 1974. She was the last packet under sail, also serving as inter-island transport within the islands.

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The government of Cape Verde presented the ship as a gift to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1982. She was named a National Historic Landmark in 1990 by the United States Department of the Interior and designated as an official ship of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1994.

In July 2020, stewardship of the Ernestine-Morrissey was transferred to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy following her restoration at Boothbay Harbor Naval Shipyard in Maine.

Standard-Times editor Kathryn Gallerani can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @kgallreporter. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.

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