The Charles W. Morgan Sails Again

The Charles W Morgan, the oldest ship in America, takes off on its 38th voyage, visiting towns in New England including New Bedford, the site of its birth over 200 years ago
Author:
Publish date:
at-Chubbs-Wharf_-June-2005

One hundred and seventy-three years after it embarked on its maiden voyage, whaling vessel Charles W. Morgan, the oldest American commercial ship still afloat, is once again plying the coastlines of New England, this time ready to give locals a glimpse into what it was like to live onboard during whaling’s golden age.

In May 2014, the Charles W. Morgan set off from Mystic Seaport in Mystic, CT, for the first time since she last pulled into that dock, back in November 1941, following an eighty-year long career on the high seas. From Mystic, she will spend her 38th voyage visiting New London, CT; Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard; New Bedford, MA (where she was constructed in 1841) and Boston, MA.

 Map of the Morgan's 38th Voyage

Map of the Morgan's 38th Voyage

Along the way, the Morgan will bring along an entire dockside exhibition with live demonstrations, music and waterfront activities. Visitors will also have the chance to step aboard and tour the ship to learn about the Morgan’s storied past right from her deck—and storied it is.

The Charles W. Morgan, a wooden whaleship—today the only remaining of its kind—stretches 113 feet long and 27 feet wide. She was built fit to sail the globe—chasing whales through violent storms and even surviving an onboard fire, as well as close encounters with cannibals.

The Morgan became widely known as a lucky ship, not only because of the dangers through which she prevailed, but also because of how astoundingly profitable she was within whaling industry. Over the course of her 80-year career she earned nearly $1.4 million dollars, almost $20 million by today’s standards.

 The Charles W. Morgan Mystic Seaport 1947

The Charles W. Morgan Mystic Seaport 1947

After she retired in 1921, Charles W. Morgan made a quick foray into the world of show business and was featured in the silent film Down to the Sea in Ships (1922) and in the British drama Java Head (1934), before Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green bought her. Green worked to restore her and then docked her as an exhibition at his estate in South Dartmouth, MA until his death in 1936.

For the next several years the Charles W. Morgan withstood both abandonment and the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, which struck the Long Island Sound area at a peak gust of 186 MPH and left 2,600 ships destroyed—but not the Morgan.

In 1941 the Mystic Seaport acquired the ship and transformed it into a floating historical exhibit. She was named a National Landmark in 1966 and has welcomed over 20 million visitors during her time in Mystic.

In 2008 the folks at Mystic Seaport realized the old girl was in dire need of a major facelift, and began a new phase of restoration to get the ship ocean-ready once again. Much of the five-year period of restoration that followed centered on renewing the ship’s hull, as well as work on its rigging and interior.

Captain Kip Files stepped up to the helm, making him the ship’s 22nd captain. Files owns and captains the 132-foot three-masted schooner and United States National Landmark Victory Chimes, and captains Elissa, a 207-foot barque owned by the Galveston Historical Foundation and Texas Seaport Museum.

What’s perhaps most special about the ship’s journey is that she’ll be returning home to New Bedford, MA, the same coastal town where she was born almost two centuries ago. Her stop in New Bedford is personal for local residents, many of whom are descendants of the ship’s original crewmembers. The City of New Bedford will be welcoming her with great fanfare over the course of a nine-day homecoming.

 New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

“The ties between the Morgan and New Bedford are profound,” said City of New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “We’re proud to host the Morgan, and even more proud to give residents and visitors an opportunity to celebrate New Bedford’s rich history as a thriving seaport.”

Festivities include a homecoming ceremony followed by an evening gala and the Buzzard’s Bay Swim on June 28; whaleboat races on June 29; a whaling history symposium from June 30-July 3; Fourth of July celebrations; the New Bedford Folk Festival on July 5 in New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park; and an official closing ceremony and bon voyage party on July 6. For more on the Morgan and her 38th voyage, visit Mystic Seaport.

Photo Credits: Mystic Seaport, New Bedford Whaling Historic National Park

Related

shutterstock_543237994

The Slow Route to Cabo

Each November, cruising boats start leaving California for “a winter of fun in the sun down Mexico way.” And having spent the summer and autumn on a leisurely passage down the West Coast on board Distant Drummer, our Liberty 458 sloop, my husband, Neil, and I were now in San ...read more

MHS-GMR_3549

New Multihulls 2018

Farrier F-22 New Zealander Ian Farrier ushered in a new genre of sailing with his folding-ama trailerable trimarans, the best-known of which are the Corsair designs. Farrier’s last project before he passed away last year was this sweet little tri. Available in three versions, ...read more

shutterstock_373701682

Cruising: Island Comeback

The U.S. Virgins Islands have surged back from the devastation of the 2017 hurricanes, with new infrastructure plans that will benefit charterers and cruisers alike. After hurricanes Irma and Maria roared through the Leeward Islands in September 2017, it was impossible to ...read more

albintoilet

Gear: Albin Pump Marine Toilet

Head Start Is there room for a new marine toilet? Albin Pump Marine thinks so, having just introduced its line of Swedish-built heads—ranging from compact to full-size models—to the American market. The toilets feature vitreous porcelain bowls and either wooden or thermoplastic ...read more

07n_45R2699

Multihull Sailor: Classic Cats

If you’re looking for a decent sub-40ft cruising cat, you have few choices when it comes to new-boat offerings. It is a well-known fact that the multihull market has taken off in a way very few could have predicted. Despite Hurricane Irma’s recent destruction of a large part of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Thanks a bunch  This scene is very calm and seamanlike. No frantic rope throwing or shouting. As he passes the line to the gent on the dock, the crew on the boat says, quietly and clearly, “Would you ...read more