Morgan, crew poised for next leg of journey

Woodcarver Gary Anderson puts the finishing touches on the new stern eagle Thursday on the transom of the whaleship Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport.
Woodcarver Gary Anderson puts the finishing touches on the new stern eagle Thursday on the transom of the whaleship Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo

Mystic - Now it's up to the weather.

As Mystic Seaport shipyard workers make their last-minute preparations today for the Charles W. Morgan's trip to New London's City Pier on Saturday, their attention is also on the weather forecast, which calls for rain and southerly winds diminishing from as much as 25 mph tonight to 12 mph on Saturday.

"Now that we have her all ready, we want to take her down the (Mystic) River," said Seaport shipyard director Quentin Snediker on Thursday as he stood next to the world's last surviving wooden whaling ship. "But it all depends on the weather."

During the morning, a crane hung a large black anchor from the bow of the ship, and a whaleboat was placed on the deck. As Snediker talked, a worker carried a door for the modular marine toilets past him.

"We're going to need that," he joked.

While rain will not stop the ship from making the trip to New London, high winds and swells could. Seaport officials will likely make a decision early Saturday morning about whether the 9:15 a.m. trip will have to be postponed until Sunday.

The 173-year-old Morgan will stay in New London for a month while it adds additional ballast, takes training cruises in Fishers Island Sound and is open to the public on select days.

On June 14, the Morgan is slated to leave for a two-month tour of historic New England ports, including New Bedford, Mass., where it was built, arriving back in Mystic on Aug. 9.

The trip is the culmination of an almost six-year, $10.6 million restoration of the National Historic Landmark.

On Wednesday, a tugboat that will push the ship down the Mystic River and then tow it to New London moved into position at the end of its dock, so its bow pointed toward the drawbridge.

The Morgan and its caravan of escort ships would leave at 9:15 a.m. because the ship needs to pass the shallow mouth of the Mystic River and make a sharp turn west just before high tide, when there will be a little less than 2 feet of clearance between the bottom of the Morgan's hull and the river bottom.

The shallow depth of the Mystic River is why the rest of the ballast has to be placed in the ship's hold in New London, where the Thames River channel has been dredged much deeper to accommodate submarines and massive cargo ships.

On Thursday morning, Snediker met with a team of people from the tugboat company to again review the placement of lines and the plan for moving the ship.

Snediker said the last of any heavy equipment was hoisted aboard the ship Thursday.

A replica of the golden eagle that graced the stern of the Morgan when it was launched in 1841 was also installed Thursday after being carved by local craftsman Gary Anderson.

"It's the crowning glory of the whole thing," Snediker said.

On Thursday afternoon, the ship's crew members began moving their personal items on board.

Snediker said they will bring the rest of their belongings as well as food and other supplies aboard today. The newly installed generators and bilge pumps, along with the electric and plumbing systems, have all been tested and are ready to go, he said.

j.wojtas@theday.com

First Mate Sam Sikkema, right, gives a tour of the whaleship Charles W. Morgan to members of the crew Thursday at Mystic Seaport as they prepare to begin the Morgan's journey this weekend to New London.
First Mate Sam Sikkema, right, gives a tour of the whaleship Charles W. Morgan to members of the crew Thursday at Mystic Seaport as they prepare to begin the Morgan's journey this weekend to New London. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo

Morgan viewers guide

Departure
There will be a brief farewell ceremony in the Mystic Seaport Shipyard at 8:45 a.m. Saturday with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and other dignitaries offering comments.
At 9:15 a.m., a tugboat will push the Morgan down the Mystic River. It will then tow it through Fishers Island Sound and up the Thames River to New London, where it will berth at City Pier about 2 p.m. Accompanying the Morgan down the Mystic River will be the museum's steamboat Sabino, fishing vessel Roann and five whaleboats rowed by Seaport staff and volunteers.
Rain is forecast for Saturday. The museum has said the trip is contingent on favorable weather conditions, and high winds and waves are among the factors that could force a postponement to Sunday. Any postponement will be posted on www.mysticseaport.org.

Boating restrictions
The museum is asking people interested in viewing the Morgan journey by boat to provide room for it and the tugboat to maneuver in the Mystic River channel. Boaters are being asked to wait south of the railroad bridge to give the ship maximum clearance in the most constricted part of the river. Boaters are also asked to stay a minimum of 50 yards behind and on each side and 100 yards in front of the boat at all times. A boater's guide is available on the Seaport website.

Viewing locations
In addition to the Seaport and City Pier, the prime viewing location is expected to be Mystic River Park on Cottrell Street in Mystic as the ship will pass by just a few yards away.
The ship can also be seen from the banks of both the Mystic and Thames rivers. Other viewing spots are the southern tips of Groton Long Point and Bluff Point State Park, the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus and Eastern Point Beach in Groton.

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