The Florida House on Tuesday presented a bill for final vote that will designate an official flagship, in keeping with the state's history that is steeped in maritime tradition. The Senate has already approved, and it is expected to pass the House by the end of the current legislative session today. Passage will elevate the Western Union, Key West's own flagship, to the status of Florida's official flagship.
Construction of the 130-foot pine-and-mahogany working schooner began in Grand Cayman and was completed in Key West in 1939. She did duty as a repair and maintenance vessel for the Western Union Telegraph Company for 34 years, tending undersea telegraph cables serving Key West, Cuba and the Caribbean.
Upon retirement from the cable company, she served for many years as a charter boat until maintenance and renovation costs forced her owners to cease operations. In 2007, she was donated, under condion that she be restored and remain in Key West, to a preservation society that arose from a grassroots movement to do just that.
The Western Union under full sail off Mallory Square in Key West
Today, the Western Union is one of the last traditional American coasting schooners and is the world's only surviving sailing cable ship. She plies the seas of the Gulf of Mexico offshore of her home port as a floating museum, charter boat, and provider of educational and recreational sails.
Auspiciouly, the moon will be full this weekend, illuminating the waters with a magical glow as guests enjoy evening sails under the stars, in celebration of the schooner's newly-bestowed designation. If you are lucky enough to be in Key West right now, why not add a dimension of adventure and romance to your stay by sharing in this historic occasion? The concierge at your B&B, inn, or hotel will be glad to make the arrangements for you!