Special Demonstration Squad

Mystic Seaport preserves maritime skills as well as artifacts. Some of these traditional skills are demonstrated for visitors during the warmer months by the roving Special Demonstration Squad. You may find them aloft, setting square sails; on the water, describing and then demonstrating how a whaleboat was used; on the Village Green, performing the breeches buoy drill used by the U.S. Life-Saving Service; or elsewhere around the grounds.

Often the Squad demonstrates the Dead Horse Ceremony, which was performed on some vessels to celebrate the end of the first month at sea. Since sailors were paid a one-month advance to settle their expenses ashore and outfit themselves before sailing (a sum that was frequently swindled from them), they did not begin to earn money until they had been at sea for a month. If the ship’s captain agreed, they might amuse themselves by making a horse figure from canvas scraps and celebrate in a procession and song before hoisting the “dead horse” aloft and cutting it free to symbolize the end of their debt.