Jul 30, 2014
02:17 PM
History

The Charles W. Morgan Returns to Connecticut

The Charles W. Morgan Returns to Connecticut

Captain Kip Files can finally relax ... well, almost.

“It’s sad that [the voyage] is almost over but I’ll be happy when it is because I brought her home safely,” says the traditional sailing expert from Rockland, Maine, who was chosen as the skipper of the Charles W. Morgan on its historic 38th voyage this summer.

It’s Wednesday morning just after 10 a.m. and Files is standing at City Pier in New London watching as crewmembers unload supplies from the Morgan. Though talking casually to the press he’s keeping a watchful eye on the crew and the ship in his command, at one point sternly ordering a photographer from another publication not to board the vessel without permission.

The Morgan is the last wooden whaleship and the oldest commercial vessel still afloat. It returned to Connecticut waters unscathed early Wednesday morning, docking at City Pier in New London a little after 2 a.m. The vessel has entered the final stages of its voyage, which maritime historians say was an unprecedented undertaking that saw the ship return to sea for the first time in more than 90 years.

Read Our Past Stories on the Morgan's historic voyage: 

 The Morgan and Whaling History 

The Journey Begins: Whaling Ship Starts Historic Voyage 

Morgan Returns 'Home'  to New Bedford

Whaleship Reunited with the Animals it Once Hunted 

In New London, the ship will engage in three more sailing days July 31, August 1, and August 2 (it will not be open to the public). The ship will return to Mystic Seaport on the early evening of Wednesday, Aug. 6. Homecoming festivities will begin at roughly 5 p.m. There will be reduced admission to the museum, bagpipes and other entertainment. The ship is expected to enter the mouth of the Mystic River around 3:45 p.m. and arrive back at the Seaport around 5:30 p.m. but Mystic Seaport staff caution these times are rough estimates and the ship could arrive later or earlier. There will then be speeches made by the captain and others.

The ship was towed from Mystic Seaport to New London on May 17. After final sailing preparations were made it left New London in mid-June. During its voyage the Morgan visited several New England ports including ones in Boston, Cape Cod, and New Bedford Massachusetts, the historic whaling town where the ship was built and then launched in 1841.

Files says that along the way the ship sailed uncharted historic waters and much was learned about traditional sailing and the whaling industry. For instance, while taking part in a whale watching trip at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Provincetown the crew got an appreciation of the skill 19th century whalemen possessed when they lowered the Morgan’s whaleboats (small satellite vessels that were launched from the whaleship to get harpooners within striking range of the whales), and attempted to get close to the whales for photographs.

“We found out that it would have been very difficult to row after a whale,” Files says. He adds that although we know the basics of how whale hunters operated many of the intricacies of the skill and precision with which they accomplished their tasks remains a mystery. “All that stuff is lost to history, but we have a better idea now than when we left.”

A few feet away from Files, also helping the crew unload, is the ship’s Third Mate Rocky Hadler, she says the ship’s return to New London has been emotional. “So many different words come to mind when you think of all that was done since we were last here.” For her highlights of the trip included seeing the ship return to New Bedford where it was built and “seeing a whaling ship—now with an emphasis on preservation—in pursuit [of whales for photographs].

New London resident Emily Maker is also at the City Pier Wednesday morning to see the Morgan on the final leg of its voyage. Maker has been following the Morgan’s progress since its restoration began in 2008 and was on hand to watch the ship leave Mystic in May and New London in June. She says its nice to see the voyage has been a success.

“It’s good to see that the weather cooperated and that she wasn’t harmed in any way,” Maker says. 

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and Google +

 

The Charles W. Morgan Returns to Connecticut

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