The Countdown Begins

Whaleboat builders pose for a photo in front of the Morgan. Front Row: Dana Hewson; Graham McKay, Lowell’s Boat Shop; Nat Benjamin, Gannon & Benjamin; Bill Sauerbrey, Beetle Cat Boat Shop (former Mystic Seaport staff); Manny Palomo, Beetle; Geoff McKonly, Rocking the Boat; Evelyn Ansel.
Back Row: Howell Crim, Alexandria Seaport Foundation; Matthew Stackpole; Bill Womack, Beetle; Bruce Mackenzie, Independence Seaport Museum; Quentin Snediker; Walter Ansel.

You may well have been at Mystic Seaport on November 1, 2008, but I hope that you’re planning on being here on July 21, 2013. It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since the Charles W. Morgan was hauled in 2008, but here we are less than six months away from her historic launch as the significant and artful work on her hull nears its conclusion. Day after day now, planking edges ever closer to completion at the waterline, this after the work in the hold is completed with the installation of the final hanging knee in mid-January. Now is the time to enjoy the status of this beautiful work before she is buttoned up tight. To stand under her at this point in the project is truly a unique and special experience.

As we approach the launch and ultimately her 38th Voyage, we are reminded of the local and national scope of the project. As an example, over the course of the month of January there was activity throughout the campus with Morgan-related work being completed everywhere, including in the Cooperage, the Rope Walk, the Shipsmith, and the Sail Loft, and of course the Shipyard. Representatives from many of the 10 boat shops and organizations (from seven states!) gathered to discuss their work and partnership in the building of 10 new whaleboats for the Morgan. How proud they are to join us in the project and some will be on hand for the upcoming WoodenBoat Show and for the launch.

We are also reminded of the diversity of materials sourced from around the nation and even farther afield in order to complete the project: live oak salvaged from Hurricanes Katrina and Ike; ever-harder-to-fine longleaf yellow pine from around the southeast; wrought iron from salvaged tiger cages at the Memphis Zoo, and hemp for her rigging from Sweden. Students from around the country are connecting to the project through our Online Learning Community and the virtual field trips continue, much to the delight of our teachers “on board” and the students “off site.” As schools prepare for the “Year of the Charles W. Morgan” we recently received great news from a foundation that approved a grant request for approximately $100,000 to provide access to the Morgan in the coming year for more than 1,000 fifth grade students in 10 Northeastern Connecticut school districts. Inspirational news indeed!

It is sure to be a busy summer, and in the coming months we will prepare you for what to expect on July 21. But one thing is certain, Mystic Seaport is the place to be-on land or on the river-to be a part of this historic launch. Our “Launch Committee” is hard at work to make it a memorable and appropriate event for the Morgan and her restorers, as well as enjoyable and memorable for our members, volunteers, visitors, and staff. Like any launch, this one is just the beginning of a new voyage. Great things most definitely lie ahead, and I hope to see you in July, if not before.


Steve White