Seaport readies 19th-century whaleship for Mystic River launch

The nearly-full moon descends in the western sky at the Mystic Seaport H.B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard over the 19th century whaleship Charles W. Morgan shortly before 2 a.m. on Saturday, June 22, 2013 in Stonington. The Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaling ship remaining and the oldest American commercial vessel still in existence as well as a National Historic Landmark, is slated to be re-launched on July 21st this summer and embark on its 38th voyage, a tour of historic New England ports in the spring of 2014.
Buy Photo Sean D. Elliot/The Day The nearly-full moon descends in the western sky at the Mystic Seaport H.B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard over the 19th century whaleship Charles W. Morgan shortly before 2 a.m. on Saturday, June 22, 2013 in Stonington. The Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaling ship remaining and the oldest American commercial vessel still in existence as well as a National Historic Landmark, is slated to be re-launched on July 21st this summer and embark on its 38th voyage, a tour of historic New England ports in the spring of 2014.

Mystic — As the scaffolding that has enveloped the Charles W. Morgan during its $7 million, four-year restoration was removed, planning began for moving the ship closer to the Mystic River this week in preparation for its July 21 launch.

On Monday, the 300-ton ship will be moved onto the tracks that lead to the lift dock. It then will be moved the 200 feet to the lift dock, where it will sit until the launch. The move is expected to be completed by Wednesday. A National Historic Landmark, the world's last surviving wooden whaling ship is scheduled to reopen to Mystic Seaport visitors on June 27.

The launch ceremony, which will occur on the 172nd anniversary of the day the vessel first was launched in New Bedford, Mass., will feature documentary filmmaker Ric Burns as the keynote speaker.

After the launch, the museum shipyard will prepare the Morgan to begin a journey late next spring visiting ports around New England. The Morgan first will travel to New London, where it will spend three weeks preparing for the voyage and conducting sea trials.

Escorted by a tugboat and the Roann, a fishing vessel restored at the Seaport, the Morgan next will sail to Newport, R.I., Vineyard Haven, Mass., New Bedford, Mass., the Cape Cod Canal, Provincetown, Mass., Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts Bay, Boston, then back to New London before returning to the Seaport in September.

Since the restoration of the Morgan began in the Seaport shipyard in November 2008, each piece of wood that has been removed and replaced has been meticulously documented with photographs, laser scans and X-rays. When the project is complete, the Morgan will still have between 15 percent and 18 percent of its original wood, including its keel.

The majority of the restoration has focused on deteriorated framing below the water line. Interior planking had to be removed to reach the framing, and some of it was replaced as well. Exterior planking also was replaced. The work is expected to preserve the 113-foot-long ship for the next 30 years.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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