Immediately following the formation of the Conch Republic, the Conch Republic Navy was created by Captain John Krause when his Schooner WESTERN UNION spontaneously attacked the US Coast Guard Cutter DILIGENCE in Key West Harbor on April 23rd, 1982. Captain Bill Wickers was appointed Secretary of the Conch Republic Navy and Monroe County Mayor Wilhelmina Harvey was appointed Admiral and First Sea Lord.
In November of 1984 the newly built Schooner WOLF, commanded and owned by Captain Finbar Gittelman, arrived in Key West to find that the Schooner WESTERN UNION had been sold and taken north. In April of 1985 the WOLF led the fleet in the re-enactment of the Great Battle. While celebrating the victory, Admiral Harvey commissioned the WOLF as the new flagship and appointed Finbar as Flag Captain. Several years later Finbar was promoted to Rear Admiral, Fleet Commander and Second Sea Lord.
Upon the passing of Admiral Harvey in 2005, Finbar was promoted to Admiral and First Sea Lord and Captain Reef Perkins, King of the Key West wreckers, was appointed Vice Admiral and Second Sea Lord. In 2009 Reef retired and Rear Admiral Frank Holden was promoted to Vice Admiral and Third Sea Lord. The Conch Republic Admiralty also boasts Vice Admiral Sir Peter Anderson (who also serves as Second Sea Lord and Secretary General of the Conch Republic,) Rear Admirals Marci McNamara and Bill Grosscup and Rear Admiral Bill Verge, CO of the Naval Reserve.
With the support of the Coast Guard Group Key West, the CR Air Force, the CR Army, the CR Coast Guard, the Office of the Secretary General and Schooner Wharf Bar, the re-enactment of the colorful Great Sea Battle is held each April in Key West Harbor (usually the last Friday of the month) in conjunction with the Annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration.
Each year, after the Victory Celebration held at Schooner Wharf Bar, Admiral Finbar ceremoniously accepts surrender from the invader's Commander and then graciously invites the Federal invaders to join in the celebration of the Victory!
Featured on the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel, citizens of the Conch Republic don their battle gear for this exciting adventure at sea that pits Tall Ships against Coast Guard Cutters for the biggest & baddest sea battle held annually anywhere in the world !
Today the Conch Republic boasts the world’s last all privateer, mainly sail propelled navy. In addition to the Flagships WOLF and WESTERN UNION, other vessels which have served under the Conch Republic battle flag include the schooners APPLEDORE, LIBERTY, LIBERTY CLIPPER, REEF CHIEF, ISLAND BELLE and the ex Navy PT 728.
The US Coast Guard Cutter EAGLE has also been commissioned into the CRN, as has Brazil’s Cisne Branco and the Captain Sinbad’s MEKA II. In 2006 the ex USS/CGC MOHAWK was commissioned as Flagship of the Conch Republic Naval Reserve Fleet. Brought to Key West by Captain Frans Boetes, the vessel is now commanded by CRN Captain Bill Verge, retired USCG (ret.) and Commissioner of Cayo Hueso.
The Conch Republic Navy now has plans to build the fleet’s first aircraft carrier, the DENNIS J WARDLOW and is currently selling CRN PEACE BONDS to raise funds for this effort.