A Homecoming

The CHARLES W. MORGAN passes through the hurricane gate as she enters New Bedford harbor. Credit: Andy price/Mystic Seaport

The CHARLES W. MORGAN passes through the hurricane gate as she enters New Bedford harbor.

NEW BEDFORD — Mystic Seaport sailed the whaleship Charles W. Morgan to a celebratory homecoming at her original homeport of New Bedford on Wednesday, June 25. The Morgan, a National Historic Landmark and America’s oldest commercial vessel still afloat, was built and launched in New Bedford in 1841, and sailed from there for most of her lengthy whaling career.

After a comprehensive restoration that lasted more than five years, the ship is on a ceremonial 38th Voyage to historic ports in Southern New England. Her last voyage, her 37th, ended in 1921. Today she sailed from Vineyard Haven, Mass.

“History has never been so alive as it was just now when we brought the Charles W. Morgan through the hurricane barrier at the mouth of the harbor. To see the people of New Bedford turn out to welcome us and show how they appreciate the project and how it validates the great history of this city was a great moment for all of us.” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport.

The Morgan’s homecoming to New Bedford is a major event for the city, which was once the largest whaling port in the world. The ship was last in New Bedford in November 1941, and has not returned since.

“The Morgan’s return showcases her former homeport to new audiences around the nation. The ship is a living witness to New Bedford’s Golden Age of Sail, and celebrates a tradition which remains unbroken; men and women continue to go down to the sea in ships, making the Port of New Bedford the busiest commercial fishing port in America,” said James Russell, president and CEO of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

He added, “Our hearty congratulations and deep appreciation goes to the Mystic Seaport community for their herculean accomplishment in restoring the Morgan to full seaworthiness, and especially for their brave decision in taking her to sea.  We can take inspiration as our city looks to restore its own many authentic treasures such as the Ernestina and the Seamen’s Bethel, as the renaissance of the historic district continues to unfold. This maritime pageant is like no other in living memory, one in which so many have contributed so much. In the Morgan’s wake, we can best honor her by envisioning other grand activities for the port, which similarly inspires great accomplishment and captures the public imagination.”

The Morgan departed Tisbury Wharf in Vineyard Haven around 9:30 a.m.and was towed down Vineyard Sound and through Quick’s Hole into Buzzards Bay. Once there, the ship cast off the tow and sailed across the bay in a series of tacks. At one point, she was clocked at speed of 8 knots. From Quick’s Hole to New Bedford, the Morgan was joined by a spectator flotilla of more than 40 boats.