Spirit of South Carolina still in limbo

The Spirit of South Carolina tall ship will be docked in the city for several days at the Maritime Center downtown.

The Spirit of South Carolina has a new bottom, but not much else as changed. The Lowcountry's own tall ship remains at the Charleston Maritime Center, waiting on a buyer.

"She's ready to go, just no place to go," said Robert E. "Teddy" Turner IV, chairman of the defunct South Carolina Maritime Foundation that built the ship.

The ship just returned to the center after repairs in Savannah, he said. The foundation remains in debt and the bank continues to hold the note on the ship.

"The boat's for sale. It won't really be over until the boat sells. It's a tough situation, but it will work itself out," Turner said. "One day the boat will sell and South Carolina will have missed a great opportunity."

The foundation put the Spirit up for sale in 2011 to pay off mounting debts, including more than $2 million in loans from a local bank, after it operated as an educational and promotional sailing ship for three years.

Tall ships are replicas of historic sailing vessels. The Spirit of South Carolina is a 140-foot-long wooden ship modeled on the 19th century, Charleston-built schooner, a symbol of the tall ship heritage that is the very blood of this port town.

The maritime foundation laid the keel in 2000 and it slipped into the harbor seven years later, the work largely of volunteers and a $4 million community effort. The eye-catching two-masted schooner was championed as a proud symbol to the world.

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