throwback thursday

5.24.23 ~ Tim on the Charles W. Morgan
Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut

A year ago we were busy packing up to move to North Carolina and visiting as many of our favorite places in Connecticut as we could get to before we had to leave. This post was meant to be about the last one of those visits, but I ran out of time to get it written and posted. Mystic Seaport is an amazing living history maritime museum and it was also the venue for many special exhibits, performances and festivals that we enjoyed over the years.

stern of the Charles W. Morgan

The Charles W. Morgan is the main attraction, the last wooden whaleship in the world, and a National Historic Landmark. (more information here) It was a 15-minute drive from our home and we were long-time members of the Seaport. In fact, my parents were members and brought me here often when I was growing up, when we lived an hour away.

deck prism lying flush in the deck,
it refracts and disperses natural light into the space below deck
harpoons tucked under a ceiling
ship’s wheel
luxury for the captain
captain’s quarters
first and second mates’ shared quarters

Life onboard consisted of long periods of boredom; for weeks, even months, no whales would be seen. The crew would repair gear, write letters, play games and music, and carve scrimshaw — pieces of whale bone or tooth — to pass the time.
~ New Bedford Whaling website

Whaling voyages lasted about three years. I was watching Space: The Longest Goodbye on PBS’s Independent Lens the other night. NASA is concerned about the mental health of astronauts being separated from their families for a three-year mission to Mars. The space explorers are not going to able to communicate with loved ones in real time! As if families have never had to do this before… Many of my ancestors did.

crew’s quarters
deck prism bringing in light below deck
whale blubber was cooked in big iron pots above deck,
the extracted oil was stored in casks below deck
port side of the Charles W. Morgan

Every year on July 31-August 1 there is an overnight event on the Morgan, a marathon reading aloud of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I regret we never managed to participate! In the Seaport Village, Schaefer’s Spouter Tavern was named for the one found in the classic American novel.

many pleasant summer evenings we spent outside dining and listening
to live acoustic musicians performing outside at Spouter Tavern

Our final visit to the Seaport would not be complete without a visit to the Small Boats building.

spritsail boat built by my 2nd-great-granduncle,
Edward Ellsworth Swift (1861-1964)

I was 7 years old when Uncle Ed died at the age of 102. My grandparents, the late Mr. & Mrs. John E. White mentioned above, took care of Uncle Ed & Aunt Flora in their old age. My grandparents were also caring for my great-grandparents at the same time and I well remember our countless visits to the six of them at the house on School Street in Woods Hole on Cape Cod.

I will miss my visits to the little boat my grandparents donated to the Seaport, which connects me across time to my ancestors.

So many memories: live music performances we attended, the visits of the Íslendingur (2000) and the Draken Harald Hårfagre (2016) Viking ships and how excited we were when the Draken decided to stay, the yearly By Land & By Sea Antique Vehicle Show, the exciting Viking Days encampment, the restorations of the Mayflower II and the Amistad, making and printing our own Christmas cards at the village Print Shop, watching costumed historians cooking on open hearths, blacksmiths at work in the forge, and so many more. The Sargent, Whistler, & Venetian Glass: American Artists & The Magic of Murano special exhibit we saw in February 2023 was unforgettable!

image credit: Ukrainian Dancers USA ~ 8.20.22

An extra special memory is an Arts on the Quad evening, when we took Katherine to see Ukrainian dancers at Mystic Seaport, seen above performing on the porch of the Thompson Exhibition Building. We were so very lucky to live so close to this treasure trove of history and culture. It is deeply missed.

32 thoughts on “throwback thursday”

  1. Cool that your great-uncle’s boat is now a museum piece. Mystic is a treasure trove for sure. We took the kids there when they were little.
    Can’t believe it has been a year already since you moved!

    1. A lot can happen in a year! And I’m still unpacking… Tim’s grandmother took him to Mystic when he was a child and if I ever find the picture of them there I will have to share it.

  2. I like the photos and your description of what life was like on what, to me, looks like a very uncomfortable ship. It’s amazing that you have a personal connection to it. Also, one year has passed since you moved! Wow.

    1. Thank you, Ally. The ship does look very cramped and uncomfortable, especially the crew’s quarters. No privacy except those little curtains across the bunk. It’s been an exciting year, so many changes, it still seems a little surreal.

    1. Thanks, Frank. I knew I couldn’t do the Seaport visit justice last year and there has been so much to do since we got here, but I’m glad I finally got some time to give it the attention it deserved.

  3. I have never been to Connecticut and always thought it would be nice to visit the New England states for leaf peeping time. How fun that would be, but this would be an attraction I would definitely like to see. I like that you can take a tour of the entire ship – that would interest me. Back in 1976, the Norwegian tall ship, the “Christian Radich” (I can’t italicize) was docked in Detroit and then in Toronto. I went with a co-worker to visit in Detroit at the riverfront and with another co-worker to visit while on a week’s vacation when we stayed with my grandmother. We also got a tour of the living quarters and met the crew – they had a huge crew of trainees, none which spoke English. They were there for the Bicentennial’s Parade of Ships over the 4th of July. How nice to reflect on this last glance at this fabulous place

    1. If you ever do go to Connecticut I’d say October would be the most beautiful month. There are other ships at the Seaport that you can tour as well. You’d probably need two days to see everything.

      I was totally unaware of the Bicentennial Parade of Ships in 1976! Tim & I and our 7-month old son were living inland and we went to see a little small town bicentennial parade on the large town green in Lebanon, CT. All the bands were dressed in colonial costumes.

      But, in 2000, now living by the sea, we were thrilled to watch the OpSail parade of ships sail into New London, CT! Among the ships was one from Ukraine, the Bat’kivshchyna. My father was 78 at the time with mobility issues. The next day my brother-in-law and I brought him and his walker to tour the ship. (My sister and Tim had to work.) Papa was the son of Ukrainian immigrants so he understood the sailors and conversed with some of them. He lingered so long that other visitors had to squeeze around him. It’s one of my happiest memories.

      1. That is good to know – prime leaf-peeping season in your former state.

        There is a colonial event next weekend at Heritage Park. It is the first time it has been held in many years. It is free to the public and I had thought of going, but I usually steer clear of crowds since COVID, so I’m still dwelling on it.

        That was exciting for you and your father – what a great day that was Barbara. I saw those young sailors, just in their teens, in both places and we could tour the Christian Radich, but a few years ago I Googled and found out it is now sailed by computer and it showed inside the ship – it was so modern, so only the sails and outside look vintage. We also had a facsimile of the ships Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria come into Wyandotte about 20 years ago. The line-up to get in was outrageously long. Marge and her husband, who had just retired, went on the tour and they were both very short and told me not to go because they kept bumping their heads since all the rooms were not very high ceilings and very cramped. (I am 5′ 9″ tall.) I went down to the River to see them, but they had it barricaded off so you couldn’t get close.

        1. We had the Nina, Pinta & Santa Maria replicas come to New London, too! Your comment reminded me I posted some pictures from it a while back. My father was with us when we visited those ships in 1992, too. (I bet it was more like 30 years ago that you remember!) It was the 500th anniversary of the Columbus voyage. The lines were very long for us, too. I doubt I’d feel comfortable in those dense crowds today! This was only a year after my mother died. We’re short people so I don’t remember bumping my head — lol.

          1. I enjoyed reading the link to this post Barbara – off the top of my head I could not remember how many ships there were and thought two. There was not a lot of room at the waterfront, so there could not have been all three. Interesting how you remembered going here and I was amazed it was in 1992! And I did not remember why they were here – so your post tells me it was the 500th year of that voyage. I remember my neighbor Marge going after her husband retired. So I just did a search on my blog and found my post. I did not tour, but wish I had now. But I captured images from the outside, as close up as you could get without admission. I will send it in a separate comment in case it goes to SPAM.

          2. It seems you and I are fascinated about the same things Barbara. That was a nice photo of your dad – he looks tanned and happy in the photo. I see in the comments Marge referenced going to the previous event. This was the where the poor seagull had a fish hook in its foot and I called the DNR on it – they were not very concerned and said it would work itself out eventually.

          3. After my mother died my father seemed to be making it his mission to do all the things with his grandchildren that he didn’t have time for during the 4 years my mother was sick with cancer. I think he was trying to make up for the loss of their dearly loved grandmother. It made him happy to spend time with them. He even came with me to their parent-teacher conferences at school.

            Your early morning pictures of the Nina and the Pinta are so beautiful, peaceful and serene! That was a good move, capturing them without the crowds surrounding them. I was surprised that you saw them in 2017, so they must have been traveling around to different ports since I saw them in 1992. You’ve got me wondering if there were only the two ships when I saw them. According to Wikipedia they are now moored at the Wharf of the Caravels museum in Andalusia, Spain. Thanks so much for sharing your post with me!

          4. That was very thoughtful and heartfelt of your father to provide a better experience for his grandkids, by being both grandfather and grandmother to them.

            I’m glad you liked the photos of the ships docked at Bishop Park. I did enjoy seeing them and remember wishing they had the sails up, but it was still exciting. I wonder if they only have the smaller ships going out on the tours – I remember the Santa Maria was the largest of the trio. It was peaceful that morning – it was my friend/neighbor Marge’s favorite place and for years she took her coffee/breakfast and her camera and watched the sun rise … her morning ritual. Interesting that the ships are now moored in the same country they departed from on Columbus famous voyage!

          5. Can you imagine what the indigenous people living on the Bahamas must have thought when they first saw those ships? Of course, the Vikings got to Newfoundland 500 years sooner…

          6. They probably hid when they saw the trio of ships coming in at once. Yes, the Vikings with their odd-shaped ships and the bow of the ship rising high above the ship with its carved figurehead. Did you visit the museum with the Viking ships in Norway on your Scandinavian tour Barbara?

          7. Thank you for sending me the link Barbara. I enjoyed reading it. I am sure I went to the Viking Ship Museum but I just went through my digitized photos and don’t see any from there, nor from the Kon-Tiki Museum and I remember going there as well. I read the book by Thor Heyerdahl about the Kon-Tiki in school years before. It could be my photos were dark as it was inside in both places, but your photos are excellent and not dark at all. They were great museums and fun to learn about history by seeing the real vessels.

          8. I never heard of the Kon-Tiki Museum and have never read Thor Heyerdahl’s book. It’s going on my reading list now. I checked out the museum website. That would have been a great stop on our trip but we didn’t have much time and did miss a lot. Wish I could spend a month in Norway…

          9. We had to read Kon-Tiki in school and what a trip it was in that vessel. You would like the book Barbara as you are interested in seafaring expeditions and even though it was not a big vessel, it was exciting – they were on the Pacific Ocean on what was essentially a raft. The problem with tours are there are so many things to see and limited time … you had gone somewhere in Norway that I didn’t go to … I remember we were comparing notes. On the PBS TV shows they show the Viking long boats which looks like a wonderful trip to me, leisurely boat trips to scenic and/or historical places. I think my traveling days are over … too much unrest in the world and air travel does not seem as safe as it once was. I know I was younger and never thought twice about undertaking a trip or excursion within a trip.

  4. It’s been a year already? How time flies! It’s probably a good thing that people in general were smaller back then. Those crew quarters look pretty cramped to me, particularly if you had to spend three whole years at sea. I’ve always been somewhat partial to a captain’s wheel though!

    1. I know! A year doesn’t seem possible and living here still feels a bit surreal. I imagine those astronauts who will spend three whole years in space will feel just as cramped in their space ship! It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like with no way to go out for a change of scenery.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post, Barbara. I think I know the Seaport pretty well having accompanied many 5th graders on an annual visit. However, you shared many insights that made me want to go again soon! Thank you for this personal tribute and reflection (although I am LOVING the regular updates from the woods near your new home!).

    1. So happy you enjoyed this post, and the others, Janet! I bet I was a 5th grader when I went to the Seaport on a class trip. 🙂 I totally forgot to mention the annual WoodenBoat Show, which we often enjoyed, and the Lantern Light Tours, which we never got around to seeing. One needs to go often to try to see and do it all, a great benefit of living nearby. I hope you’ll have many more visits in the future!

  6. I really enjoyed this post, and yes it did look uncomfortable. My Dad is a great sailor, was in the Navy. I, unfortunately get horribly seasick. I would not survive 3 years, haha.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Tracy. Was your dad in the submarine fleet? I used to live near the submarine base in Groton, Connecticut. Some of the sailors would be gone for three or six months at a time. I don’t get seasick as long as I can see the horizon. 🙂

      1. No, although he has been in submarines. Looking at the horizon does help in most cases. Unfortunately sometimes the waves are too much for me, hahaha!

        1. When we were teenagers my sister and I sailed across the Atlantic on a cruise ship with our parents. My sister was so seasick she had to keep going to the infirmary for shots. I was fine. Yet, I’m the one who gets carsick!

  7. Back in 1989, we had a 29 ft. CAL sailboat, and we sailed around the Hawaiian Islands. Good thing that I was much younger then, because it was pretty rough weather out on the ocean at times. But overall, it was a great experience. Seeing your photos of this much bigger sailing ship brought back memories….

    1. Wow! That sounds like the adventure of a lifetime! I looked up some pictures of 29 ft. CAL sailboats and tried to imagine being tossed around by the waves in one. You must have been very skilled sailors!

  8. I enjoy the Mystic CT area as well. Thank you for this fun photo visit. That’s pretty neat that you have a family connection to the Seaport.

    1. Go glad you enjoyed this brief visit to Mystic. There are so many other places in the Mystic area I’m also missing so much…

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