Each morning, after a cup of coffee, Joe and Edna Grillo venture out to Pier 19.
There, with other vessels of the Mosquito Fleet, is tied the 1937 shrimp boat Santa Maria — the object of the Grillos’ affection, dedication and hard work for many years.
“It was part of the family, that boat,” Joe Grillo said. “It still is.”
Now, with heavy help from the Grillos and the current owners, Galveston Historical Foundation, the 79-year-old boat is getting renovated.
In the photo above, longtime volunteer leader John Moran, former TSM Director Kurt Voss, and former GHF executive director Marsh Davis bring the shrimp boat Santa Maria to the Texas Seaport Museum after her haulout and initial restoration in 2003.
The wooden shrimp boat Santa Maria has been part of Galveston’s famous “Mosquito Fleet” since she was launched in 1937. GHF’s Texas Seaport Museum became the owner of Santa Maria in 2002, and she is still berthed among her colleagues in the Galveston Bay shrimping business at pier 19.
The vessel was purchased from Joe and Edna Grillo, whose family had operated the boat for most of her career. Such a save is what maritime preservationists can usually only dream of. But like any wooden boat of her age, Santa Maria required, and continues to require, a great deal of repair and replacement.
Santa Maria may be viewed at her slip but not boarded by the general public. While she is taken out by staff and volunteers as often as possible, she is not licensed for passengers.
With its restoration and return to the rest of the Mosquito Fleet, the Grillos and the foundation are both hoping new generations will come to appreciate the boat, and its ties to the shrimping traditions of Galveston.
This work is being done by a corps of dedicated volunteers. To join them, call (409) 763-1877.