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A free spirit

After a visit to New England for some TLC, South Carolina’s tall ship goes back to work

Thanks to a crew of dedicated hearts and souls — and a substantial financial commitment — the spirit is back in the Spirit of South Carolina.

After a summer’s journey north to Newport, Rhode Island, for a haulout and refit, the 140-foot (sparred length) two-masted schooner that is the tall ship ambassador of the Palmetto State is ready for the 2016 season of sail training and charter. It’s a positive turn of events that new owners Tommy Baker and Michael Bennett and a fleet of supporters are thrilled to see bring to a close a four-year period when the boat sat idle under bank ownership in Charleston. “Hundreds of volunteers love that boat and have given it their time and energy,” says Baker. “It belongs to all of us. That’s the beauty of the Spirit of South Carolina.”

The ship will stay true to its mission, Baker adds. “That kids can get on the boat, stand watch, eat the same food, share and be educated — that’s the value,” he says. “Everyone will have a hand in teaching the kids and giving them a lifelong lesson they’ll never forget. Mike and I think of it as belonging to the state of South Carolina and its people. He and I are just custodians. We are going to maintain it and keep it in great shape and at some point pass it back to the state.”

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