Mystic Seaport, After Sunset

Village Sunset (Photo by Joe Michael/Mystic Seaport)

(Photo by Joe Michael/Mystic Seaport)

If you’ve ever arrived at Mystic Seaport on your boat or someone else’s, you might understand where this month’s letter is headed. If you haven’t yet had the luxury of that experience, find yourself a boat or a friend with a boat and then you’ll have a sense of what I’m talking about.

There is Mystic Seaport by day, and then there is Mystic Seaport by night. To most visitors who enjoy the grounds and the diversity of experiences here during the day, they can only imagine the calm and the solitude that one can experience as a visiting yachtsman. Having grown up on the coast of Maine, we were always looking for a new cove tucked away along Merchants Row or a new anchorage somewhere further down east. Some spots are more memorable and less frequented than others, sometimes depending on whether the anchor holds or not, but I think it’s safe to say that for virtually every yachtsman who has tied up alongside the bulkhead or one of our docks, it is always a memorable experience.

I recently had the pleasure of spending portions of a day with some visitors who came by boat.  They marveled at the extraordinary breadth and depth of the Museum experience, but they spoke most glowingly about the purple sky of sunset and the early morning hours as the river and community awakened.

It’s unusual that visitors can have such an intimate relationship with a museum outside of visitor hours. Imagine pulling up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or Mount Vernon in your car or your camper and announcing to the museum staff,  “not to worry, I’ll just be here in the parking lot overnight, and you can let me stroll about the grounds on my own.” But that’s virtually what happens here at Mystic Seaport when you come by boat. We may close the galleries, but the intimacy of the environment on the Museum grounds and the powerful sense of place remains, and for yachtsman with young families, the Seaport Village and beyond captures the imagination and allows those young people to imagine being in distant lands at a time long ago.

To me, the serenity just might inspire one of any age to pick up poetry or prose about the sea and to lose oneself yet again. It is in these solitary times at the Museum that one becomes closest to the soul of Mystic Seaport.  It allows for the magic of the river to come alive, and it helps visitors understand why Mystic Seaport has for years been so critical, so essential to one’s understanding of the sea.

There are many places to visit by boat, but where can you be in the shadow of the Joseph Conrad, the Charles W. Morgan, and, right now, the Draken Harald Hårfagre, with centuries of seafaring lore all on one waterfront and all within sight, serving as compelling sources of inspiration for the imagination. It’s why you come to Mystic Seaport. It is to be inspired, and it’s to find some peace of mind, right now, when we need it more than ever.

See you along the waterfront!

Steve White