The Shutter Plank

Shipyard staff member Sean Patrick Kelly drives the final golden spike on the shutter plank. May 10, 2013

Shipyard staff member Sean Patrick Kelly drives the final golden spike on the shutter plank. May 10, 2013

It seems like just yesterday that we were all gathered next to the Charles W. Morgan to witness the first new plank be bent onto the hull. On that day, a chilly February 22, 2012, when you looked up at the vast amount of hull that needed to be replanked, you thought it would take forever to get that done. Well, forever is almost here.

More than 100 planks later, and with a number still to go, the shipwrights are nearing the “shutter” plank, the last plank to be installed on the hull. This is a traditional point of celebration in the building of any vessel and is a major milestone on the Morgan project.

That moment underscores how fast things are starting to move here at Mystic Seaport. Events that seemed far in the future now feel just around the corner. The shutter plank signals the beginning of the ship’s move back to the Mystic River. Painting and caulking will be completed, the protective enclosure and scaffolding will come down, and the vessel centered and moved out onto the ship lift. All this will be happen by July 21, launch day. Not coincidentally, that day will be the 172nd anniversary of her original launching at the Hillman Brothers yard in New Bedford.

The Education Department is working on their programming for the coming 2013-2014 “Year of the Charles W. Morgan” in Connecticut schools. In addition to traditional lesson plans, dramatic performances, and field trips, the initiative includes an innovative Online Learning Community where the participants help shape and enhance the curriculum. The goal is to give every schoolchild in the state and beyond the opportunity to experience onboard, on-site, and online the lessons the ship has to teach.

The Exhibits Department is in the process of designing a new exhibit to tell the story of whaling and America, “In the Wake of the Whalers,” and staff from all over the Museum have been travelling to ports across New England to plan the visit of the Morgan on the ship’s 38th Voyage in 2014.

All of these projects seemed far off, but as that shutter plank gets closer, it is clear they will be here before we know it. This is an important time for Mystic Seaport and I look forward to sharing these events and experiences with you in the year ahead. In the meantime, please stop by the Shipyard before the end of the month and take a look at the Morgan as they get ready to close her up. We will not have the opportunity to see her like this again in our lifetimes.


Steve White