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Dreamers before the Mast chronicles the epic story of Regina Maris, a tall ship built, owned, sailed, and loved from 1908 to 2000 by people who had big dreams of ships and the sea — and who made those dreams come true. Each chapter of Dreamers before the Mast recounts the hard work and hair-raising adventures experienced by Regina’s owners, captains, crew members, scientists, and students, often in their own words through extensive interviews and excerpts from diaries and journals, letters, and the ship’s logs. All material is fully documented, and the book includes a complete index and detailed appendices.

The dreams Regina helped realize varied widely, and the ship experienced several reincarnations. Launched as a top-sail schooner in 1908, Regina (as she was called until 1966, when her official name was changed to Regina Maris) carried cargo in the Baltic Sea and fished for herring and cod off the Grand Banks. In World War II, she allegedly rescued Jews fleeing the Nazi occupation of Denmark. Re-imagined as a private yacht, she was rebuilt in 1964 and rigged as a barkentine to fulfill her owners’ dreams of rounding Cape Horn and sailing the world’s oceans, inspiring cities and nations to obtain their own tall ships. And, in 1969 she re-traced Captain James Cook's route of discovery to Australia for the bicentennial of that historic voyage, representing the Queen of England and her Royal Navy. Turned into a cruise ship in 1970, she sailed around the Pacific, visiting French Polynesia and Mexico many times and surviving two hurricanes a week apart. In 1976, Regina Maris was once again reincarnated, this time as an oceanographic research vessel. As such, she was instrumental in documenting the “singing” behavior of the humpback whale and cataloguing these whales’ unique fluke patterns, making it possible to document their migration through the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, from the Arctic to the Galapagos and Greenland to the Caribbean. At many points in this varied career, Regina was featured in movies and television shows. She sailed in the tall ship races of 1974 and 1976, serving as a school ship in the earlier race and as a floating classroom for people of all ages during her ORES (Ocean Research and Education Society) days.

In 1988, she was sunk by incompetence and raised, then deliberately sunk again in 1991 to avoid a hurricane. Heroic — some say Quixotic — efforts to save her followed, but they finally failed, and in 2002, the ship was destroyed, with only her masts, figurehead, and a few other pieces preserved in a public park in Glen Cove, New York. Even that apparently safe resting place was transient, however, for the park was sold for private development in 2017. At the time Dreamers before the Mast was published, the ship’s figurehead and hydraulic capstan rested in the public works yard in Glen Cove, and the author and other alumni were attempting to find a museum to take the artifacts. Over her long and varied life, Regina Maris had suffered ramming by submarines, devastating fires, mutinies, every kind of wild weather, and multiple dismastings. But in 78 years of sailing, she never lost one of the hundreds of souls pursuing their dreams beneath her tall masts.


John Kerr, Linfield College class of 1970, served as ship's historian to Regina Maris.

Dreamers before the Mast: The History of the Tall Ship Regina Maris



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