by Des Ryan
Caught sailing in Long Island Sound. There's nothing like watching a tall ship come to life with all sails drawing, and this ship, Charles W. Morgan, is sailing for the first time since 1922. She is the last remaining wooden whaling ship and the oldest commercial American ship still in existence. She's doing sea trials here, but will sail proudly to Newport, Rhode Island on June 14.
She sails again - photo by Dennis Murphy, Mystic Seaport
The Charles W. Morgan is docked in New London, preparing for her 38th voyage. She underwent sea trials under full sail both Saturday and Sunday. She was towed from her berth at New London's City Pier out into Long Island Sound. Once there, she spent time conducting sail training drills and maneuvers.
'The ship exceeded all expectations and performed wonderfully,' said Capt. Kip Files, the 22nd master of the Morgan. 'She is faster than we thought she would be. She turns easier, and she handles really well. We could not be more pleased. There is no one alive today who has sailed one of these whaleships who can tell us how they perform, so we really learned a lot today. We have a great voyage ahead of us.'
The Morgan has been on display at Mystic Seaport since the 1940s. She last sailed a commercial voyage in the 1920s. She's currently being prepared to take to the ocean to visit several New England ports, including New Bedford -- where she was built -- and Martha's Vineyard, the home of several of her previous captains.
About the Morgan:
Length: 113 ft (34 m) LOA
Beam: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
Draft: 17 ft 6 in (5.33 m)
She is a double-topsail bark rig with 13,000 sq ft (1,200 m2) of sail
Charles W. Morgan sailed commercially during the 19th and early 20th century, having been first launched in 1841.
In her 80 years of service, she made 37 voyages ranging in length from nine months to five years. In the main she was used for the carriage of sperm and whale oil, as well as whalebone. She sailed, usually with a crew of 33, both in the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans, surviving ice and snow storms. She was often home to the Captain's family. Her crew survived a cannibal attack in the South Pacific.