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Morgan crew members rescue woman from Thames River

By Sean D. Elliot

Publication: theday.com

Published June 06. 2014 2:05PM   Updated June 09. 2014 7:48PM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Charles W. Morgan engineer Bill DiFrancesco, deckhand Aaron Gralnik and Mystic Seaport shipwright Bob Long pull a woman who jumped into the Thames River off City Pier in New London into the seaport's rescue launch Friday, June 6, 2014. The woman, who left her dog and cat on the pier, explained that she was trying to baptize herself and then found she could not swim back to the pier on her own.

CORRECTION - June 7, 2014: In a previous version of this story the length of the Morgan was incorrectly listed as 173 feet. The correct information is now reflected below.

New London A day before setting out on their first training cruise, crew members of the wooden whaling ship Charles W. Morgan demonstrated their man-overboard protocol on Friday and pulled a struggling woman out of the Thames River.

The fully-clothed woman left her dog and cat on City Pier, jumped into the water and told witnesses she was baptizing herself.

The Morgan’s chief mate, Sam Sikkema, said the woman apparently was caught in the current and found she could not make it back to the pier.

“She yelled that she needed help when she realized the current was taking her out,” Sikkema said.

The Morgan crew initiated a man-overboard response and threw her a life ring with attached line from the stern of the ship and launched its rescue boat from the nearby dock. Spotters kept an eye on her while she was in the water. The Morgan, owned by the Mystic Seaport since 1941 and an attraction at the Seaport, has been at City Pier since May 17 as it readies for its shakedown cruise today.

The historic whaleship is making a historic three-month voyage, set to begin June 14.

On Friday afternoon, ship engineer Bill DiFrancesco, deckhand Aaron Gralnik and Mystic Seaport shipwright Bob Long pulled the unidentified woman aboard their chase boat and brought her back to the pier.

The crew called New London police, who were not immediately available to comment, but did speak with the woman.

Today’s training cruise will be the first time the Morgan has been under sail on the open water since 1921. The 113-foot Morgan is the last remaining wooden whaling ship and the oldest American commercial vessel still in existence in America. It is a National Historic Landmark. After restoration, the Morgan was re-launched on July 21, 2013, in advance of its historic 38th Voyage of New England ports this summer.

Sikkema called Friday’s incident just “strange.”

g.smith@theday.com

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