A rare event was set to cast off this weekend in Mystic. The world's oldest surviving wooden merchant ship planned to head back out to sea after 73 years.
Final preparations were underway Tuesday for the Charles W. Morgan. The last time the old whaling ship had a long voyage was in 1941. Her arrival to Mystic was just three weeks before Pearl Harbor and World War II.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be part of this historic event, that's for sure," said Kip Files, captain of the Morgan.
Files said he was chosen to sail the 106-foot, three-masted vessel. It's undergone nearly six years of multi-million dollar restorations.
"It's the most historic maritime event in my lifetime," said Files. "This, taking her out on the river and then putting her through her paces, learning how to tack and jibe."
In mariner terms, the Morgan is a "Square-rigger." She will sail May 17 out of the Mystic River, according to Files. However, she'll be towed to New London where her new cotton canvas sales will be installed.
"This is a big moment for Mystic Seaport and for the state of Connecticut, as we take this American icon, the oldest surviving commercial ship in the country, back to sea once again to carry out a new mission of education and celebration of our nation's shared maritime heritage," said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport.
Her first sail-training voyage was set for June 7.
Due to the size of the boat, the captain needs spotters and a compass to navigate.
"We'll be living in the cabins they lived in," Files said. "And hopefully be eating a little bit better than they did."
Below deck were 162-year-old glass prisms that provided light for the crew.
Today, modern navigation equipment was installed along with essential plumbing and safety devices for what's planned to be a very hectic 38th voyage schedule.
"Off to go to Newport, RI," said Files. "Then to the Vineyard, then New Bedford, Provincetown, Boston Buzzards Bay and home."
On board will be a stowaway. That person will keep the ship's journals and blog on social media in hopes of teaching the world about the history that will come alive.
For more information on the Morgan's voyage, click here.
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