A new ship on the West Sacramento waterfront has a long history in the Coast Guard, including duty during Prohibition in stopping alcohol imports.
The West Sacramento Sea Scouts have acquired the former Coast Guard cutter Morris. The ship's new permanent home on the Sacramento River will be just south of the Pioneer Bridge and will serve as a training vessel for the Sea Scouts.
"They learn how to maintain the engines, operate the radar, do line handling and get behind the wheel," said Nate Eckler, leader of the group that sponsors the Sea Scouts. "On training voyages they will cruise it on down to the Bay Area. The best classroom you can get is out on the water."
The local Sea Scouts chapter has about 15 young members and has a long history in the Sacramento area. The Scouts have had other boats over time, including a shrimp trawler and a crab boat they still own.
But Eckler, director of the Sacramento Delta Youth Maritime Association and skipper of the local Sea Scouts chapter, calls the Morris the cream of the crop.
The just-acquired ship was named for Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His skill in finance and as controller of the Navy contributed to American success in the Revolutionary War.
He also served in the Senate and died poor in 1806 when his land holdings collapsed in value, according to a Coast Guard history.
Constructed at a cost of $63,000 each, the Morris and the other vessels like her were designed to trail "mother ships" during Prohibition. The Morris operated intermittently against rumrunners, according to the Coast Guard.
The 125-foot ship was built in 1927 in Camden, N.J., and operated out of New London, Conn., before a 1929 assignment to Oakland.
She also saw duty in Los Angeles, Alaska, Oregon and San Diego.
The Morris was in a class of long-lasting vessels 16 were still in use in the 1960s. In 1970, the Morris was the last to be decommissioned. She was transferred to the Boy Scouts of America.
The Scout crab boat and the Morris are stern-to-stern across the river from Miller Park boat harbor, Eckler said. Over the past 15 years the boat has been refit. She previously was in use by Sea Scouts in Stockton and in San Mateo.
For more information about the Sea Scouts go to www.youthmaritime.com.