The schooner WESTERN UNION is the last tall ship built in Monroe County, and is the official flagship of the City of Key West and the State of Florida. She was constructed and launched off Simonton Beach in Key West in 1939, just in time to be part of the informal picket fleet protecting our commerce from German U-boat raiders during WWII. After the war, she helped develop Florida’s economy by laying and maintaining communication cables from Florida to South and Central America, the Gulf States and the Caribbean island nations.
In 2007, the schooner was donated to the all-volunteer Schooner Western Union Preservation Society (SWUPS) debt free so that contributions from the public would be charitable and used to maintain her. The reality is that old wooden ships always require preservation to remain a part of our living history. With the support of individual and company donors, the Historic Florida Keys Foundation and the Monroe County TDC, the first phase of a comprehensive and necessary refitting was completed in 2011. Following 2 years of successful operations, WESTERN UNION is forced to rest in her slip at the Historic Key West Seaport. She now must enter the second phase of a complete refit in order to meet the Coast Guard requirements for passenger ships before she can sail again. Schooner WESTERN UNION requires financial assistance to meet the expense of this next phase.
The Society can report that the major refit has begun in the Marpro boatyard in Tarpon Springs. The State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Historical Resources has awarded us a $500,000 grant and the City of Key West approved a $250,000 matching grant to fund this major refit. ~from https://schoonerwesternunion.causevox.com/
"Schooner WESTERN UNION: A gallant effort to save a ship," by Mandy Miles, The Key West Citizen, August 31, 2014.