Mystic - Mystic Seaport will kick off the public portion of its $10 million capital campaign to restore and then sail the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship with a ceremony Saturday that will mark the 70th anniversary of the ship's arrival at the museum.
As a part of its fundraising campaign, the museum is offering donors a chance to sponsor one of the 250 exterior planks that will be placed on the ship for a donation of $5,000. While the donor's names will not go on the actual plank, they will be part of a display next to where the ship is docked.
Nat Arata, the museum's vice president for advancement, likened the plank offer to the opportunity Red Sox fans had to buy bricks that line two gates in Fenway Park to commemorate the ballpark's 100th anniversary.
"It's a once in a generation opportunity," he said Thursday.
The cost to renovate the ship, sail it to ports along the East Coast in 2014 and develop an education program and website is estimated at $10 million. Arata said about half of that has already been raised through a private campaign.
He said the museum will also be looking for a corporate partner to sponsor the voyage, which he said would be a "seven figure" commitment.
"This is an opportunity for a company to put their name on the spirit of American enterprise," he said, adding that tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out to see the world's last surviving wooden whaling ship when it visits their community.
In addition, Arata said the museum will also approach foundations it has not worked with before to seek funding. And while the museum is hoping for some large donations, he said it is accepting donations of all amounts.
Admission to the museum on Saturday is free, and there will be special programs, demonstrations, music, food and tours of the Morgan.
The 1 p.m. ceremony in the museum shipyard where the Morgan is being restored will feature a keynote address by Nathaniel Philbrick, the author of "In the Heart of the Sea" and co-chairman of the campaign. There will also be comments from dignitaries, including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, and Robert Lane, a former Sea Scout who was aboard the Morgan when it was towed up the Mystic River to the museum in 1941.
Also on Saturday there will be a benefit performance of George C. White's dramatic work "Prince of Whalers," starring the actor Brian Dennehy. More information is available at www.mysticseaport.org/cwm70th.