Wanted: captain for 172-year-old whaleship

Mystic - The Charles W. Morgan is about to get its first captain in 92 years.

Mystic Seaport, which has been restoring the 172-year-old wooden whaleship for the past four years so it can sail to historic ports across New England next summer, is advertising for someone to captain the ship leading up to and during its 38th voyage.

"The Morgan has not had a captain in more than 90 years and who knows how long it will be after this voyage," Dana Hewson, the museum's vice president for Watercraft Preservation and Programs, said Tuesday. "So I think this will be a much sought-after position."

Seaport officials said the captain not only will have to be a top-notch mariner but also must be comfortable in front of the public because of the media attention and crowds the ship will attract during its three-month trip next summer.

"They have to be absolutely qualified to manage this artifact, which has national and international importance," Hewson said of the candidates. "They also have to embrace the role of the public nature of this endeavor."

He said that could mean interacting with everyone from the media and passengers to governors of the states they are visiting.

Applicants must possess a 500-ton Near Coastal Master license and have 10 years of command experience on traditional sailing vessels with extensive knowledge in square-rig sailing, according to the job description on the museum website.

It adds that the captain must recognize the ship "as the premier artifact in the museum's collection as well as one of the nation's most important historic objects. Her safety and well-being will be paramount in all decisions."

The Morgan, whose last voyage ended in 1921, is the world's last surviving wooden whaling ship and a National Historic Landmark. It also holds the distinction of being the country's oldest commercial vessel still afloat. A total of $7 million eventually will be spent on its restoration and voyage.

Hewson said the museum has seen interest in the position from people in the field.

"It's a relatively small world, so it's certainly been known in the field that we'd be doing this," he said.

The restored Morgan was launched during a ceremony in July. While the majority of the work to the hull is complete, shipyard workers have to replace spars, rig the ship, fit it with new sails, replace the electrical system and install modern navigation, safety gear and other equipment for the voyage. The 21st century gear will be removed when the voyage is over.

After the work is complete next spring, the Morgan 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., and then to stops in Massachusetts at Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, the Cape Cod Canal, Provincetown and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary before returning to New London and the Seaport, where it will resume its spot as the centerpiece of the museum's collection.

Hewson said the museum hopes to announce the name of the captain in the next 60 to 90 days, and that the person will be involved in the fitting out of the ship next spring. The captain's job will end once the voyage is completed in August 2014.

Seaport spokesman Dan McFadden said the museum would not publicly disclose the salary for the position.

The museum also is hiring a full-time marine operations manager to handle all the marine logistics of the trip.

In addition to the captain, the ship will have three mates, 10 to 12 crew who are certified mariners, 10 additional crew and a dozen passengers on any one leg of the trip, Hewson said.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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