The Anticipation Builds

Each member of the shipyard crew working on the restoration has signed the MORGAN's shutter plank.

Each member of the shipyard crew working on the restoration has signed the MORGAN’s shutter plank.

Over my four-plus years at Mystic Seaport, my experiences have been filled with a vast number of firsts: WoodenBoat Show, the Charles W. Morgan haul-out, Ship to Shore groups, futtock installation, over the top on the Conrad, beetle cats on the Mystic River, Lantern Light Tours, driving a trunnel, a hurricane, Sabino downriver cruises and so on. There has been so much to see, so much to experience, so much to learn. On May 10, I’ll add another to the list: the Morgan‘s shutter plank.

Every step of the way since the haul out in November 2008 we have watched in awe as the shipwrights and their team have carefully undone, documented, prepared, and renewed the Morgan through a beautiful transformative process of restoration. Every step has had it challenges, overcome by expertise and patience. And now, after four-and-a-half years, we find ourselves on the threshold of hanging the final plank, the shutter plank, the whiskey plank, the capstone, if you will. The symbolism runs deep, but even on the surface, to consider what has truly been accomplished here, one cannot help but appreciate the significance of the work itself. The numbers are staggering — planks, futtocks, trunnels, spikes, hours, people, dollars — but it is the craft, the craftsmanship, that truly stuns my eye. It’s the understanding of the wood, the shape, the physics, and the technique that inspires the respect that we all share for her restoration team. To a person, they have excelled in reviving the shape, if not the heart, of one of the finest and most significant vessels afloat in the world.

So with the shutter plank, we reach another major milestone in the project, leaving us not much more than two months before the launch. Before then, so much has yet to be completed. In this process, I have to confess that it is hard to see the long leaf yellow pine and the white oak all so carefully hewn, fitted, and fared being painted, but is the next essential step to completion and to preservation. As the caulkers’ work continues in earnest, the Morgan tightens and stiffens in preparation for her return to the river to float again on her almost hog-free bottom. How fortunate we all have been, fellow staff and members, to be part of each step in the process so that the details of it can be fully appreciated and documented in our own memories.

Over the next several weeks we will have ample opportunities to acknowledge the extraordinary work that has been accomplished up to this point while work continues in the Shipyard and around the campus in support of the overall project, including rigging and iron work. I hope you’ll join me in regularly visiting the yard to check on the next step and evolution. It’s all happening quickly, and the vast majority of it we’ll never see again. Don’t delay — if you wait until launch day, you’ll not know how we got there.

See you in the Shipyard,

Steve White