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Mystic — The Charles W. Morgan now has a captain.
Employees of Mystic Seaport were told Tuesday that Richard "Kip" Files, of Rockland, Maine, will lead the 172-year-old wooden whaleship as it sails to historic ports across New England next summer. The museum has spent the past four years restoring the ship in preparation for its 38th voyage.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to take a vessel that is very special out to sea, and the fact that the Mystic Seaport has chosen me to do this, I'm humbled and very privileged," Files said in an interview Tuesday.
There are not many people who can sail a traditional vessel like the Morgan, museum spokesman Dan McFadden said. McFadden said Files has the right experience, and he understands traditional sailing techniques and the important public role of the Morgan.
"It was a pretty small pool of people we were pursuing," McFadden said. "Out of those people, Kip was the right candidate."
Files, 62, said he learned to sail as a child and became a licensed mariner in 1974. He is the captain of the Elissa, a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship built in 1877 and now located at the Texas Seaport Museum. It is operated by the Galveston Historical Association.
He also is the captain and co-owner of a windjammer in Maine, Victory Chimes, which he uses to take passengers on weekend trips along the coast. The three-masted schooner is 113 years old and like the Morgan, it does not have an engine.
Files holds a Coast Guard master ocean license for inspected passenger vessels up to 1,600 gross tons, and he has been a master of traditional sailing vessels since 1978.
Now the 22nd skipper of the Morgan, Files starts his new job Monday. McFadden said Files will recruit and hire the crew. The Morgan, the world's last surviving wooden whaling ship and a National Historic Landmark, has not had a captain in more than 90 years.
The upcoming voyage, Files said, is probably one of the most significant events in his lifetime.
"To be any part of it would have been special," he said. "And to be the captain, I haven't even figured out the words to explain it."