For the first time in nearly a century, the whaleship Charles W. Morgan had seawater under her hull and the wind billowing her sails as she cast off Saturday from New London for a sea trial.
The Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaleship, is now preparing for her 38th voyage, which includes stops in Newport, R.I., Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, Provincetown, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Boston. She will be at the Tisbury wharf and open to the public from June 21 to June 24, but may arrive as early as June 18 depending on weather conditions. Her captain is Kip Files from Rockland, Me.
The Morgan is a lone representative from the once vast American whaling ship fleet. The ship was first launched from New Bedford in 1841, and went on 37 whaling voyages around the world. She had 21 captains, seven with Vineyard ties. Many other Vineyarders sailed on the ship as deckhands and mates. The Charles W. Morgan’s last whaling trip ended in 1921.
The ship is a National Historic Landmark and has been extensively restored at Mystic Seaport. In May, she sailed from Mystic to New London, where the sails were attached to her spars and the ship was given ballast.
On Saturday, the Morgan left City Pier in New London, Conn., at 9:30 a.m. and sailed to Long Island Sound for a day of training drills and maneuvers. The ship returned to New London at 3:30 p.m.
“The ship exceeded all expectations and performed wonderfully. She is faster than we thought she would be, she turns easier and she handles really well. We could not be more pleased,” Captain Files said in a press release. “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.”
“Her first sail since 1921/22; thrilling, unbelievable, magical and momentous,” wrote ship historian Matthew Stackpole in an email to the Gazette one day after the sail. “We believe there is no one alive who sailed on a whaleship until yesterday!”