Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bon Voyage, Charles W. Morgan

A 'Lucky Ship'* leaving Mystic for her 38th Voyage.

Today is a special day in Mystic, Connecticut, well, it is actually a very significant day in American maritime history, if not in the whole maritime world. This morning, at 9:15 a.m., the last remaining wooden whaleship in the world, the Charles W. Morgan, embarked on her 38th Voyage.

She arrived to Mystic Seaport - The Museum of America and the Sea in November 1941, looking ragged and crippled after having been beaten up at Col. Green's estate Round Hill, Massachusetts, by the 1938 Hurricane. The good people in New Bedford, where she was built in 1941, tried to raise funds to save her, but failed. Then Mystic Seaport - at this time called the Marine Historical Association - stepped in, and in November 1941, she was towed south to Mystic. The Morgan has gone through several restorations since she arrived to Mystic Seaport, but none as severe and important as the one which started in November 2008.

Now, more than five years later, after a multi-million dollar restoration, this morning she left the Museum to be towed to New London, where will be re-fitted. Her crew will be trained to sail there on day sails - remember no living soul has sailed a vessel like her, not even her experienced captain, 'Kip' Files of Rockland, Maine - before she embarks on her summer-long voyage to visit different ports along New England. Among the ports are Newport, New Bedford, Martha's Vineyard, and Boston, at the latter port, the Morgan will be docked by another famous vessel, the USS Constitution.

For days the weather forecast looked dreadful for this morning, pouring rain, strong winds, and unruly sea. But the rain stopped early, and in time for her departure, the sun had come out, the dark clouds had moved away, and it was just beautiful - just look at those pictures for this entry. Thousands and thousands of people had gathered along the Mystic River to see the 'old girl' off. Following her was a flotilla of vessels, both from the Museum and private boats. Among them were five of the newly built whale boats that have been built for her voyage.

Get more information about the Charles W. Morgan's 38th Voyage from Mystic Seaport's website here.

Here are some photographs from yesterday morning preparations for the voyage and from her departure this morning.

The crew carrying aboard the Morgan's new sails, made by sail maker Nat Wilson in East Boothbay, Maine.

The tryworks, the oven where the whale blubber was boiled into oil, is still on board the Morgan.

The small pantry forward on the Morgan's deck needs to be cleaned up before it can be used.

Getting ready for her first 'outing' in 73 years (when she arrived to Mystic). Last time the Morgan sailed was in 1921, her 37th voyage as a whaleship. As a matter of fact, she did 'sail' a couple of times after that, when she was a 'star' in some silent motion pictures during the 1920s, among them Down to the Sea in Ships (1922). Watch the movie here.

The Morgan has started her 38th Voyage, getting close to the famous drawbridge in Downtown Mystic. The lower yards are tilted to be able to let her go through the bridge.

Some of the whale boats escorting the Morgan downriver.

Farewell - see you back in Mystic in August!

Bon Voyage!

Read more about the Morgan and Mystic Seaport in these issues of the Mystic Seaport Magazine.

*A 'Lucky Ship' had the reputation of having survived storms, ice storms, fire, and other situations that were dire for a vessel.


  1. Looking forward to seeing her later this summer in Newport and/or New Bedford.