The Foremast Is In

Mystic Seaport Shipyard staff stepping the MORGAN's foremast on October 17.

Mystic Seaport Shipyard staff stepping the MORGAN’s foremast on October 17.

The 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan took an important step on her journey back to sea today when Mystic Seaport staff members stepped the first of the ship’s three masts.

The Morgan was de-rigged and had her masts and spars removed at the outset of the ongoing five-year, multimillion dollar restoration at the Museum’s shipyard. Re-installing the masts, known as “stepping” in nautical terminology, is an important occasion during a ship’s construction.

“Stepping a mast is one of those milestones that marks both a new stage in the ship’s construction—or in this case, restoration—and the observance of a maritime tradition,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport at a brief ceremony held alongside the ship. “It is tradition to place a coin under the base of a mast to provide good luck.”

To mark significant events in the Morgan’s history, the Museum selected three coins for placement:

Nine-year-old Dylan Conforti from Charlestown, MA placed a 1941 U.S. Silver Half-Dollar under the MORGAN's foremast.

Nine-year-old Dylan Conforti from Charlestown, MA placed a 1941 U.S. Silver Half-Dollar under the MORGAN’s foremast.

Today, the most-forward mast, the foremast, was stepped. The other two masts, the main and mizzen, will be installed in November. The 1941 Half-Dollar was designated to be placed under the foremast. The 1841 Silver Dollar and the 2013 Silver Eagle will be placed under the mainmast and mizzen mast respectively.

The 1941 coin was placed by nine-year-old Dylan Conforti from Charlestown, MA. Conforti, the grandson of former Mystic Seaport chairman Bill Cook, is a fourth grader at the Learning Project in Boston.

“We are always looking to involve young people in what we do here and in the spirit of encouraging the next generation of stewards for this great ship, we asked Dylan to give us a hand,” said White.

The coins replace three coins that were removed when the previous masts were taken out in 2008. They were a 1908 Barber Silver Half Dollar, an Eisenhower Silver Dollar dating from 1971-1977 (corrosion made it impossible to read the specific year), and a 1997 U.S. Silver Dollar. Each coin signifies a mast replacement during the Morgan’s career.

The 38th Voyage

The Charles W. Morgan’s 38th Voyage will begin in late May 2014, when the ship will go back to sea to visit historic ports of New England to celebrate the importance of America’s maritime heritage. After a period of refitting and sea trials based in New London, the ship will sail to Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, and Boston. She will also venture onto the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and participate in the centennial celebration of the Cape Cod Canal. The voyage will be a commemoration of the role of the sea in the history of America and an appreciation of our changing relationship with the natural world.