Morgan settles in at City Pier, attracting the curious

New London — Standing on City Pier on Sunday, Capt. Richard "Kip" Files raised a hand to his brow to help shield his eyes from the bright noontime sun.

Files, who will captain the Charles W. Morgan on its upcoming 38th voyage, watched as crew members worked on the ship's rigging high above the pier.

"It's all about the engine," he said. "Today we're working on the rigging and putting the sails up. It's a lot of very labor-intensive work."

As the 10-person crew worked to fold one of the ship's sails, a modest crowd of spectators gathered at the pier to watch, take pictures of the 173-year-old whaling ship and, in at least one case, enjoy a picnic lunch.

"We visited the Morgan at the Mystic Seaport many times when our children were much younger," city resident Chris Sherman-Watson said. "It is so nice to see it out and moving again, as it should be."

Sherman-Watson and his wife, Stacy, said they were excited to see the restored Morgan docked in their hometown and drawing attention to the Whaling City.

"I feel so lucky that we have something like this in our downtown," Stacy Sherman-Watson said, noting the spectacular views of the ship's masts granted to those walking, biking or driving down State Street.

Diego Adrianzen of New London was drawn to the Morgan on Sunday with his father, who is visiting from Peru.

"I've been showing him around downtown and I brought him here because we both wanted to see this ship," Adrianzen said. "It's like something from a museum, it's real American history."

Also at City Pier on Sunday was a group of nearly two dozen artists from the Dalvero Academy in New York City. The artists have been chronicling the restoration of the world's last wooden whaling ship through art since 2009. Many of the artists will be following the Morgan on its 38th voyage this summer.

"The Morgan is an unbelievable subject to work with," artist Susan Buroker, of New York City, said. "It is very, very exciting for us to be a part of this wonderful piece of American history."

Buroker was one of the many spectators who congregated along the shoreline Saturday to watch as the world's last wooden whaling ship was towed from Mystic Seaport to City Pier.

The Morgan underwent a nearly six-year, multi-million-dollar renovation at the Seaport, and Saturday's short voyage was its first since arriving in Mystic in 1941.

While the ship is in New London, the remaining ballast will be added and the crew will conduct training cruises, marking the first time it's been under sail in close to a century. The first training cruise into Fishers Island Sound is slated for June 7.

Beginning Saturday, the Morgan will welcome guests aboard to tour the historic ship and learn more about the American whaling industry and the importance of now protecting the whale.

Then, on June 14, the Morgan will depart for a two-month tour of historic New England ports, slated to begin with a trip to Newport, R.I.

Among the Morgan's ports of call will be Boston, where it will dock alongside another historic ship - the USS Constitution, at 216 years old the oldest commissioned warship still afloat in the world.

And in August the Morgan will again dock at New London's City Pier for a short stay before returning to its home at Mystic Seaport on Aug. 9.

c.young@theday.com

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Special Report: 38th Voyage

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