Mystic Seaport

Leaving Mystic SeaportAfter an overnight of storms and rain in the Mystic area, the weather cleared just after dawn on Saturday, May 17, and presented a spectacular day and ideal conditions to move the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan down the Mystic River and on to New London, Conn. on the first phase of the ship’s historic 38th Voyage.

A brief ceremony was held at 8:45 the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard, the ship’s home for the last five years of a comprehensive restoration. Several hundred visitors gathered to listen to comments from Rep. Joe Courtney and a moving blessing by Capt. Van Dickens, the Command Chaplain at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Mystic Seaport President Steve White then read and presented Capt. Kip Files, the 22nd captain of the Morgan, with his Letter of Instruction that formally entrusted the well-being of the ship to his care.

Lines were cast off at 9:11 a.m. and with the help of the tugs Sirius and Thuban — one in front pulling and the other pushing from the stern — the Morgan slowly made her way off the pier and into the Mystic River Channel in a procession that included the Museum’s fishing vessel Roann, the steamboat Sabino, the launch Necessity, and five whaleboats rowed by Mystic Seaport staff and volunteers. Timing was very important as the ship needed to make the 10:05 opening of the railroad swing bridge and high tide at the mouth of the river near Noank.

Cheers erupted from crowds lining the shoreline throughout the down river trip and the procession was accompanied by many spectator boats, many of which followed all the way to New London. Once clear of the river, Sirius dropped back in standby and Thuban towed the Morgan to New London at a relatively swift 8 knots. Upon arrival in New London, the Morgan tied up at a berth at City Pier at 12:48 p.m.

New London

New London DocksideMystic Seaport opened the traveling exhibition that accompanies the historic whaleship Charles W. Morgan on her 38th Voyage for the first time in New London on Saturday, May 24. The public could experience the exhibition and board the ship. The Morgan was berthed at City Pier near the New London town center as she completed her fitting out for the voyage. The ship and dockside exhibition were open on May 24, 25, 31, and June 1.

Visitors to the pier were able to learn about the Morgan, whales, and whaling and their importance to American history in the 22,000 square-foot exhibition. There is a video on the history and significance of the 173-year-old vessel plus a series of panels that explain the role the American whaling industry had in this country’s history; how the Morgan and whaleships were an early connector of different cultures; and how America’s perception of the natural world has changed since the Morgan’s whaling career. Hands-on activities include knot-tying, handling samples of wood used in the restoration, and searching the ship’s crew lists for familiar names or hometown connections.

A focal point was Spouter, a 46-foot-long, life-sized inflatable model of a sperm whale. Visitors participated in a “What Bubbles Up?” activity by writing down their whale-related memory, question, or sketch and attaching it to a humpback whale sculpture.


Entering Newport HarborThe Charles W. Morgan completed the first leg of her 38th Voyage when she sailed into Newport, Rhode Island, today.

This is the Morgan’s first sailing voyage since 1921. The Morgan cast off from City Pier in New London, Connecticut, at 6:15 a.m. and was towed up Fishers Island Sound and through Watch Hill Passage. Once on Block Island Sound the ship dropped the tow and set all working sail to make her way to Newport. She arrived in the harbor and tied up at Fort Adams at 6 p.m.

Vineyard Haven

Arriving in Vineyard HavenThe whaleship Charles W. Morgan arrived in Vineyard Haven on June 18 in the next phase of her 38th Voyage to ports across Southern New England. Greeted by a flotilla of schooners, catboats, and other small craft, both sail and powered, the ship was eased into the port with the assistance of the tug Sirius. Volleys of cannon fire erupted as she passed the breakwater and into the harbor. The ship was berthed at Tisbury Wharf and open to the public from Saturday, June 21 to Tuesday, June 24.

New Bedford

New Bedford dockside exhibitMystic Seaport sailed the whaleship Charles W. Morgan to a celebratory homecoming at her original homeport of New Bedford on Wednesday, June 25.

With a welcome fit for a prodigal son, the City of New Bedford has thrown open its arms to honor and celebrate the homecoming this week. The city held an opening ceremony at State Pier on June 28, the first day the ship was open to the public. Civic leaders and politicians, among them Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. William Keating, and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, praised the ship and the 38th Voyage project and hoped the visit inaugurates a new era of prosperity for the city.

As Mayor Mitchell raised the city’s flag on the ship, two descendants of whalers—Daniel Rodriguez and Bruce Gamaranzo—rang the Morgan’s bell 38 times to commemorate her 38 voyages, after which the ship was declared open.


The Charles W. Morgan arrived in Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, on July 9. The dockside exhibits were open to the public; the Morgan made three day trips on the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, on July 11, 12, and 13, and departed for Boston on July 15.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Stellwagen BankThe Charles W. Morgan sailed to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary carrying a message of hope and conservation.

During her 80-year whaling career, the Morgan‘s purpose was to hunt and harvest whales for oil and whalebone (baleen). At the time, whales were a primary source of illumination and lubrication. But technology moved on: petroleum products replaced whale oil, and plastic replaced whalebone. Also, our perception of whales and the natural world has changed as well. In 1841, whales were seen as an unlimited resource to exploit. Today, most cultures view them as creatures to be preserved, and the extent to which mankind hunted many of them almost to extinction is a cautious lesson in the limitations of the earth’s abundance.

Mystic Seaport partnered with NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to bring the Morgan to sail among whales once again. However, this time the goal was to raise awareness of the fragile state of our oceans and how important they are in our ecosystem. Sailing an artifact of a defunct—yet once very important—industry among the creatures it sought to kill, offers an opportunity to compare current practices and technology with the past. Both the Morgan and the whales have survived and there are lessons in that survival.

As part of NOAA’s OceanLIVE online broadcast, oceanographer Sylvia Earle joined us on one of the days we were sailing in the sanctuary and she summed it up very succinctly: she called the Morgan a “ship of hope” for the oceans and the creatures that dwell within them.


BostonThe Charles W. Morgan, a National Historic Landmark and America’s oldest commercial vessel still afloat, sailed into Boston on July 15 and docked next to the USS Constitution at the Boston National Historical Park at the Charlestown Navy Yard. The Constitution, built in 1797, is America’s oldest ship, and this was the first time the two vessels had ever been in the same port.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy

The Charles W. Morgan traveled from Boston to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy on Wednesday, July 23 to take part in the centennial celebration of the opening of the Cape Cod Canal. The ship was towed through the canal at approximately 6 p.m. The ship docked at the academy and opened for public boarding on Saturday and Sunday, July 26-27.

New London

New LondonAfter a long transit from Buzzards Bay, Mass., the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan arrived at City Pier in New London, Conn. early in the morning on Wednesday, July 30. Due to the length of the journey, the ship was towed and not sailed on this leg of the voyage. This is the last stop on the historic 38th Voyage .

While in New London, the vessel headed out onto Long Island Sound for three final day sails on July 31 and August 1-2.

Mystic Seaport

HomecomingThe Charles W. Morgan was welcomed home to Mystic Seaport on August 6 following the completion of this summer’s historic 38th Voyage. The 19th-century whaleship was towed from City Pier in New London to the Museum, where she is now tied up at her traditional berth at Chubb’s Wharf.