Will the Morgan sail again?

When CBS Evening News closed its broadcast Wednesday with a report on the finish, in Mystic, of the 38th Voyage of America's oldest merchant ship, the network noted that it was the last voyage for the Charles W. Morgan, which will never sail again.

I'm not so sure.

Indeed, in closing the homecoming ceremonies at the museum Wednesday, the Morgan tucked safely back into her longtime berth, museum Vice President Susan Funk, who actually joined the crew and helped haul lines and sail the ship for part of the summer's trip, suggested it was maybe not the whaling ship's last voyage, just the latest.

The original idea for taking the Morgan out of retirement and sailing it again came from Seaport President Steve White, who posed the suggestion as a successful restoration of the ship was winding down.

As first publicly described, this summer's 38th Voyage was intended to be a crowning finish to the restoration, kind of a victory lap at sea, before the ship was returned to service as a museum artifact.

But the voyage went so well, I think people probably started rethinking that notion of never again.

After all, the museum staff - involvement in the voyage went up and down the ranks - proved themselves more than simple curators of old boats. They took an 1841 whaling ship, a national landmark, out sailing and brought it safely back to port.

I asked White, on one leg of the trip this summer, about dismantling and removing all the modern safety and navigation equipment that was installed for the 38th Voyage, and he suggested no final decisions have been made about that.

The museum would begin a careful discussion of the future of the Morgan at the conclusion of the summer's sailing trip, he said.

It sounded to me like a maybe to the would-she-sail-again question.

How about, for instance, a 39th Voyage with a stop in New York City, once the home of Herman Melville. Wouldn't the Morgan look grand at the South Street Seaport under the Fourth of July fireworks on the East River?

The Morgan's triumphant return home Wednesday was a reminder of how great it is to live in a place where ships return from the sea. And really, who would have thought that thousands of people would turn out, lining the Mystic River, to cheer the homecoming of a 19th century whaling ship.

A spontaneous shouted salute - Hip Hip Hooray - came from the crowd as the Morgan eased gracefully through the narrow opening of the Mystic River drawbridge, horns and bells sounding.

"Thank you Mystic," White shouted back from the rail of the ship.

"I have goose bumps all over my body," said the woman standing next to me in the crowded Mystic River Park.

I doubt she was the only one.

The we-did-it excitement was palpable at the later celebration on the Seaport grounds, as congratulations went all around, for everyone from the shipwrights who made her seaworthy to the crew who slept in her fo'c'sle and climbed her rigging, now the only people alive who have sailed a wooden whaling ship.

A hero of the trip was certainly Capt. Kip Files, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy his assignment, from sailing across Buzzard's Bay at a crisp eight knots to choreographing a remarkable tack in light air off Cape Cod, in sight of whales.

Files joked Wednesday that someday, when he is old and in a wheelchair, drool cup at hand, people might notice him looking out the window, a smile on his face. That would be him remembering the 38th voyage, he said.

The Morgan's celebrated return this week was also a reminder that New Bedford may be her historic homeport, the name that appears in gold letters on her transom, but Mystic is now certainly home.

This is the opinion of David Collins


Twitter: @davidcollinsct


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