About Tallship Unicorn

Ship’s History

Deo Volente I with Dutch fleet number TX11 circa 1947

Originally built in 1947 under the name Deo Volente I with the fleet number of TX 11, Unicorn's hull was crafted from recycled metals of captured German U-boats salvaged after World War II.  She was built in the Netherlands as a motor fishing vessel at the shipyard De Vooruitgang at Gouwsluis, Alphen aan de Rijn for Dutch owners Gebr. Vlaming & L. Bremer from the Island of Texel.  Her given name of Deo Volente I (God Willing) implies that her owners were most likely God fearing, conservative Christian Dutch reformed fishermen.  With her locomotive style 1500 horsepower diesel engine, this strong vessel trawled the North Atlantic's fishing grounds for 32 years with various owners and under other names such as Pieter Andre vessel number HD 35 in the late 1960's (owner L.R. de Boer named after the owner's two sons)  and Willem Senior vessel number WR 235 in the early 1970's (owner W. & J. v.d. Veen).

Deo Volente I with Dutch fleet number TX11 circa 1947

When her fishing days were over, she was acquired by a Dutch skipper and his wife, Pieter and Agnes Kaptein of Hoorn. By 1979 she had been converted into a sailing ship and renamed Eenhoorn or “one horn”, Dutch for Unicorn and sailed the Mediterranean.

In 1986, Eenhoorn was sold to Mr. Morris Henson who registered the vessel in Jersey under the anglicized name of Unicorn and the hull was painted black, retaining the white rail and gunwale stripes. Under her British flag, Henson sailed Unicorn out of the West Indies, Caribbean and Spanish coast as a charter vessel and treasure seeker.

Unicorn with wooden masts sailing Lake Huron 1993

The early-90’s brought a new direction for Unicorn. Curtis and Lettie Ciszek, an American couple from Bainbridge Island, Washington purchased the vessel from the ailing Henson. After a refit, they sailed the Unicorn with their four children and a crew to Grenada where she chartered out of Secret Harbour. In 1995, on her way to her second Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, Unicorn collided with the ocean-going chemical tanker Chilibar. She was towed to Norfolk by the sailing tugantine Norfolk Rebel. Estimated repairs to the hull were higher than the insured value and the schooner was for sale once again.

Purchased by a Canadian couple who had a dream of their own, the Unicorn was converted into a Canadian certified sail training vessel. Under Captain Prothero's ownership and management, the ship went through a re-fitting of the hull, rig and power and in 1997 she was christened with a new name, True North or Toronto. True North provided hundreds of trainees of all ages the opportunity to sail the Great Lakes, the East Coast of North America and the Caribbean. It was also at this time that the vessel became a member of the American Sail Training Association and began appearing with the ASTA fleet at port festivals throughout the Great Lakes.

A New Life

STV Unicorn under sail 2009

In the fall of 1999, True North was acquired by its current owners, Dawn and Jonathan (Jay) Santamaria of Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Along with their four daughters, they continue to promote the preservation of traditional maritime life through sail training, tall ship festivals and community involvement. In December of 2003, the schooner completed a bow to stern refit that took the ship down to its steel ribs, and was rechristened with her original schooner name, Unicorn. In the summer of 2005, Unicorn was granted a Jones Act Waiver to become a United States registered vessel and she proudly flies the American flag off her stern. This same year, co-owner Dawn Santamaria founded Sisters Under Sail, a not-for-profit on-board leadership program for teenage girls and women.  Sisters Under Sail and her all-female professional crew charter Unicorn each summer sailing New England, Canadian Maritimes and the Great Lakes.  Today, with her well defined mission, the 63 year old Unicorn sails with a new passion and mission.  This Dutch-built beauty, rich in history, is strong and has a soul all her own.