By Michael Johnson
The Charles W. Morgan, a staple of Mystic seaport is the last wooden whale ship in the world. It began it’s 38th voyage on Saturday.
The ship was towed to nearby New London, its first stop of a three-month-long trip to historic ports in New England.
The Morgan was built in 1841. It has been docked at Mystic Seaport since 1941. On Saturday, The Morgan was guided down the Mystic River by a tugboat. See more pictures on our Facebook page. It was then pulled through Fishers Island and up the Thames River to New London, where it will dock at City Pier.
The Morgan will remain in New London until June 7. its next stop will be Newport Rhode Island, and then on to the ships port of origin, New Bedford Massachusetts. The ships journey can be tracked on the mystic seaports website.
story & photo
by Robert J. O’Shaughnessy
This past April, Mystic was honored to be the site of the Grace McDonnell Playground, part of the Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play. Grace was one of the 20 children who lost their lives in Newtown on December 14, 2012. The playground was built as a tribute to her and her love of art and the beach. Grace’s parents, Lynn and Chris, chose Williams Beach behind the Mystic YMCA as the location for the playground as they were engaged in Mystic and Grace loved the beach. Bill Lavin of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association coordinated the construction of the playground. Bill is the founder of the Sandy Ground Project and for him each of these playgrounds is a labor of love. Each one is built to reflect the personality of the teacher or child for whom it was dedicated.
One of the unique features of the playgrounds is the addition of a bell. Bill explained that some of the project members loved the line “When a bell rings, an angel gets it wings” from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. A donated bell was incorporated into each playground.
Bill Lavin was the emcee for the dedication of Grace’s Playground and introduced a number of speakers who welcomed the crowd and thanked the volunteers. Lynn McDonnell thanked everyone involved in the project telling them “Your gifts of love, friendship and strength have lifted our family.” After the ribbon cutting by Grace’s parents and her brother Jack, the playground was open to the many children who were in attendance.
For Information or donations, contact Where Angels Play Foundation at 732.858.1726 or visit www.thesandygroundproject.org.
On the weekend of May 17th, the whaling barque CHARLES W. MORGAN will make her first port of call in over seventy years with a stop at New London’s City Pier. This will also mark the first visit by a wooden whaling ship to New London in nearly a century, an event which is part of the MORGAN‘s historic 38th voyage. So historic is this voyage that the United States Coast Guard has designated the required permitting as “an event of national significance.”
When the MORGAN first came to Mystic some 75 years ago, she was set in a berth of gravel, with the quite reasonable expectation that age and decay had relegated her to a role as permanent display. And then a remarkable revelation and a new frame of mind emerged; first, the discovery that the ship could be floated, leading to decades as floating, mostly static, display; then, the restoration of these past five years, and the bold decision to return her to her native element.
The 38th voyage of the MORGAN has planned visits to Newport RI, Nantucket Island, New Bedford and Boston, MA, and points in-between. But the choice of New London, once America’s second most productive whaling port, was made for practical reasons, befitting that history and the working aspects of sailing America’s oldest commercial vessel. The Morgan will be docking in New London for final outfitting, the rigging of spars, bending on of sails, and loading of ballast, operations not possible at her home port of Mystic.
These events, set amidst this voyage of a lifetime, will be held on May 24 and 25, and again on May 31 and June 1st. The Charles W. Morgan will then make several trial sails, to allow her captain and crew to learn the intricacies of handling this revered ship. At the conclusion of her 38th voyage, the Morgan will return to New London, fully rigged this time. This entire process affords a one-time opportunity for today’s children to tell tomorrow’s heirs that, once, they witnessed a wooden whaling ship under sail in New London harbor.