A National Project

The Charles W. Morgan was rolled out onto the Museum's shiplift on Wednesday, June 25.

The Charles W. Morgan was rolled out onto the Museum’s shiplift on Wednesday, June 25.

It was a grand sight to see the Charles W. Morgan move for the first time in more than four years as the Shipyard staff eased her out onto the lift dock in preparation for her launch later this month. Using muscle power and a forklift, they carefully eased the 300-ton ship out to its current position poised for launch over the Mystic River. The job required a lot of hands and a lot of coordination to pull off successfully, and watching the teamwork reminded me how many people from around the country are joining us to help complete the ship’s restoration and support the upcoming 38th Voyage.

Just finding the proper materials has been a major challenge from the start, and we have been successful only with the help of many “agents” who assisted us in finding the live oak, longleaf pine, and white oak of the correct dimension and quality. Live oak felled by Hurricanes Katrina and Ike came from  Mississippi, Texas, and Florida, and new spars were secured through the Gray’s Harbor Seaport Foundation in Washington state. Wrought iron was salvaged from former tiger cages at the Memphis Zoo. Sails are being made by Nat Wilson in Boothbay, ME. Closer to home, the New York Botanical Garden donated a white oak felled by Hurricane Sandy. And the list goes on…

If you had the good fortune to be at the WoodenBoat Show this past weekend (and I hope you did!), the national scope of the project was on full display as six of the 10 whaleboats being built especially for the Morgan were in attendance. All told, nine organizations in seven states have stepped forward to dedicate their time and resources to construct replica whaleboats so the Morgan can be properly equipped. They are the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia; Virginia’s Alexandria Seaport Foundation; New York City’s Rocking the Boat; Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway of Vineyard Haven, MA; Beetle Boat Shop of Wareham, MA (in partnership with the New Bedford Whaling Museum); the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Cedarville, MI;  the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, VT; Lowell’s Boat Shop in Amesbury, MA; and The Apprenticeshop of Rockland, ME. The Apprenticeshop actually delivered their whaleboat to the Museum during the show by sailing and rowing it all the way from Maine! The crew had nothing but appreciation for the seaworthiness of the design, and one can only imagine the last time a whaleboat was seen making seven knots on a run before the wind in Massachusetts Bay.

Thus, what is taking place in our Shipyard in Connecticut is part of a nationwide effort. We will honor that when we launch the Morgan at 2 p.m. on July 21. I hope you can join us. But if you cannot make it to Mystic Seaport that day, you can still watch a live video stream that you will find on our new website’s home page along with complete coverage of the event. Don’t miss out as we begin a new chapter in the history of America’s last remaining wooden whaleship.

Steve White