It was a little iffy for a while, but in the end, the Amistad sailed into New London and docked Saturday in time for Sailfest.
The move comes after a contentious few days between Amistad America’s director, the governor and lawmakers.
“It’s unbelievable, hard to imagine a ship like that sailed all the way to Africa,” said Adrienne Smith of Griswold. “It’s surreal.”
Smith and her husband, Ernie, were in New London to watch the replica of the slave ship Amistad arrive for this weekend’s Sailfest.
“Look how massive it is,” Adrienne Smith said.
Built in 1999 in Mystic, now based in New Haven, Amistad America Incorporated owns and operates the traditional wooden schooner. As the official flagship of Connecticut, Amistad serves as a floating history lesson of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1839.
When operators of the ship said they would pass on this year’s Sailfest, Gov. Dannel Malloy took a stand, threatening to reconsider the $400,000 in state funding the schooner recieves each year unless the Amistad appeared at Sailfest.
“Amistad being at Sailfest is an important part of our history, and 100,000 people are going to be there,” said Andrew Doba, the governor’s spokesman. “The governor wants the ship there.”
Sure enough, the Amistad left New Haven bright and early, around 5 Saturday morning, and arrived in New London in the afternoon.
For now, the state office of policy and management says it won’t make any payments to the ship’s operator until it sees a long-overdue audit of its finances.
The state has given the group nearly $8 million over a decade, even after Amistad America stopped paying its bills and lost its nonprofit status.