Historic Ship Reclaimed By Nature Has a Second Life As a Protective Breakwater

Small forest growing on a shipwreck in the Pacific Northwest from r/interestingasfuck

While we've seen ships overrun by nature before, it's usually been due to a shipwreck. In Washington State, however, there is a forest-filled ship that serves another purpose. Located on the western side of the state in Anacortes, a four-masted schooner named La Merced has taken on new life as a breakwater in a case of creative recycling. Since it was moved into position in 1966, the boat has been overtaken by trees that grow in the sand that fills its hull. The ship is now a part of maritime history and was placed on the National Historic Register in 1990.

La Merced has a long and storied history since its creation in 1917. While four-masted schooners once numbered in the hundreds, La Merced is one of just four that remain intact. The boat was an auxiliary schooner during World War I before being used in the lumber trade between Portland and California.  It was then fitted to ship oil from the U.S. to Australia and New Zealand, bringing back grain on its return voyage. But the ship's adventure didn't end there. In the late 1920s, the 232-foot long La Merced was transformed into a floating cannery and worked out of Alaska.

As the end of the boat's working life neared, it was sold for salvage in 1965. It was then that its majestic masts were cut off. The propellers, engines, and deck fittings were also stripped prior to the schooner being moved to Lovric's Shipyard. The shipyard is where the boat remains today, nestled into rocks and rubble. Though La Merced no long floats on the water, the ship actually has remained watertight and is in surprisingly good shape.

Using the salvaged ship as a breakwater was quite forward-thinking for the owner of Lovric's Shipyard. Anton Lovric, known affectionately as Tony, was born in Croatia and immigrated to the United States in 1960. A life-long entrepreneur, in a short time Lovric was able to transform a former seafood processing plant into the marina and shipyard that still bears his name. It was Lovric who had an eye for repurposing La Merced. He brought the boat to its current location just one year after he purchased the property.

And here it remains; a piece of nautical history continuing to live on in a new role. Shielding the marina from crashing waves, La Merced is also a favorite site for photographers who love to capture the greenery that fills the ship.

La Merced is a four-masted schooner that has been transformed into a breakwater.

Over time, trees have filled the sand-filled hull.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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