Friendship of Salem

Large ship docked at wharf with smaller row boat


Located on Derby Wharf. Currently closed.

The replica tall ship, Friendship of Salem, docked at Derby Wharf is designed to present the appearance an original 1797 Salem-built vessel. Friendship’s keel was laid in Scarano Shipyard in Albany, New York in 1996 and uses modern technology and materials to meet today’s safety and accessibility requirements.

Friendship of Salem represents New England’s influential role in the development of global and domestic maritime trade and in the economic and political development of the United States. When open, visitors can go aboard and engage with the volunteers and staff to experience Salem’s maritime history.


Where are the masts?

Friendship of Salem left Derby Wharf for a scheduled “haul-out” on July 5, 2016 and returned on April 22, 2019. The masts and rigging were removed at that time in order to perform work including maintenance, inspection, and repair on the hull, propellers, shafts, rudder and other running gear components. The next work phase for Friendship will be replacing the deck. When the deck project is finished, the ship will then be up-rigged and the masts will finally return!

Our friends at Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) were aboard Friendship on her return trip in 2019 and wrote a wonderful blog, “Renewing our Friendship.” PEM has a permanent exhibit of Maritime art that “frames the sea as an enduring source of opportunity as well as peril, a force that inspires creativity and innovation, and encourages engagement with the wider world.”


1797 Friendship

The original Friendship, a two-decked, three-masted, square-rigged, 342-ton vessel was built in 1796-1797. It was built in the Stage Point yard of Salem shipbuilder Enos Briggs across the South River from today's Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Friendship was launched on May 28, 1797 and registered at the Salem Custom House to merchants Aaron Waite (1742-1830) and Jerathmiel Peirce (1747-1827).

Friendship was an “East Indiaman,” the type of merchant ship that was used in the East Indies trade in the years after the American Revolution. Friendship made 15 voyages to countries including China, Indonesia, India, Venezuela, Spain, and Russia. The cargo brought back to Salem consisted of pepper, silk, sugar, coffee, ale, sherry, tin, salt, cheese, candles, and other goods and merchandise.



On September 5, 1812, Friendship was returning from Archangel, Russia, when the ship was captured by the British sloop of war HMS Rosamond. The War of 1812 between the British and the United States began while Friendship was in Archangel, Russia. The war had started in June, but the captain and crew were unaware of that fact and set off for Salem, only to be captured in the Atlantic Ocean and taken as a prize of war. The captain and crew were able to return to Salem, but Friendship was sold at auction in London, England on March 17, 1813.


Captain and Crew

The number of crew needed on a vessel depended on many factors. A crew for a merchant vessel like Friendship generally ranged from sixteen to eighteen and they mostly knew one another. Salem crews were put together using a network of locally interconnected families, extended family connections, neighbors, and friends.

Shipmasters or captains were responsible for the vessel, the lives of the crew, and the cargo onboard. The crews on Salem vessels were relatively young. A ship boy might start out his seafaring career at age 13, sailors were in their late teens and early twenties, and mates and shipmasters might be in their late twenties to early thirties. Although some were known to be younger!


Life and Work at Sea

Daniel Vickers in Young Men and the Sea notes that “the regular work of shiphandling--setting, reefing, trimming and taking in sails, steering the vessel, as well as preparing rigging and canvas—masters almost always noted down in collective terms.” Where menial tasks would have been for sailors, for the most part, shipmasters and mates were there to command and manage, but may have pitched in here and there.

As vessels and crews grew larger, there was more division of labor and the addition of specialized positions. Cooks, carpenters, and sailmakers had specific work and first and second mates supervised ship activities. A supercargo was the owner’s representative and conducted the business and trading in port and would not have been involved in day-to-day activities.

Meals were plain and on long voyages the ships carried livestock to be killed and eaten during the voyage. Provisions could become rotten and low on long voyages. Despite their numerous responsibilities aboard ship, sailors were not always busy. In their down time they played games or musical instruments, washed and mended clothing, or slept.


Risks and Rewards

By the time Friendship was sailing, generations of New Englanders were used to the risks associated with the stormy North Atlantic waters and even the prospect of contracting a tropical disease in the West Indies (not that knowing about them, made those risks any less real). Other risks included pirates, privateers, navigating a world in conflict, and decaying wooden ships.

On Friendship’s tenth voyage to India, the ship was leaking throughout two months. Pumping the water out would have been physically exhausting, not to mention the anxiety it must have caused among the captain and crew. Few mariners in Salem became rich in the industry, although a career at sea did offer opportunities to move up the social and economic ladder from sailor, to mate, to captain. Daniel Vickers in Young Men and the Sea concludes his book by stating, “maritime labor was not at all that exceptional. In Salem, it was simply what young men did when they grew up by the sea.”


The Model

The replica Friendship of Salem is based on a model of the original Friendship now on view at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem. Several paintings of the ship and numerous documents, including logs of the ship’s voyages also exist and were used to inform the construction of the replica.

The model is in PEM’s new maritime art gallery with a logbook from Friendship's first voyage. Thomas Russell, second mate, and the ship’s carpenter, Mr. Odell, constructed the model ship on a voyage to China and Sumatra. In conjunction with the logbook there is an interactive that displays the course of Friendship's first voyage. A PEM blog, “Reading between the lines,” describes the exhibit, the process of deciphering the log, and highlights documents and portraits connected to Friendship.

Last updated: July 26, 2020

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160 Derby Street
Salem, MA 01970



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