After a seven-day stay on Martha’s Vineyard, the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan departed from Vineyard Haven harbor Wednesday morning for the next leg of her historic voyage.
The Morgan left the dock at 9:30 a.m., and just as when she arrived, the last wooden whaling ship was heralded with boat horns and cannons. People were lined up from Eastville Beach to Tisbury Wharf to get a glimpse of the ship as she departed. There was a crowd and a small traffic jam at West Chop as people tried to get a last look.
Behind the Morgan, the ferry Island Home was leaving Vineyard Haven, bound for Woods Hole. The whaling ship was accompanied by a flotilla of more than a dozen vessels.
The ship left under tow, going around West Chop and through Quick’s Hole to Buzzards Bay. She sailed into Buzzards Bay and arrived in New Bedford at about 4 p.m. Capt. Richard (Kip) Files was at the helm.
The Morgan was built in 1841 in New Bedford and sailed on 37 whaling voyages over 80 years. She was often called a lucky ship, and she lived up to the moniker by being the only American wooden whaling ship to survive. The ship has been at Mystic Seaport since 1941. In 2008, Mystic Seaport began a complete restoration, eventually deciding to sail the ship for the first time in nearly a century.
The trip to New Bedford was a homecoming for the Charles W. Morgan. Once the world’s largest whaling port, New Bedford was the Morgan’s home port for most of her 37 whaling trips. She was built at the J&Z Hillman Brothers Shipyard in New Bedford. The ship was last in New Bedford in November 1941.
“History has never been so alive as it was just now when we brought the Charles W. Morgan through the hurricane barrier at the mouth of the harbor,” Mystic Seaport president Steve White said in a press release late Wednesday. “To see the people of New Bedford turn out to welcome us and show how they appreciate the project and how it validates the great history of this city was a great moment for all of us.”
A week earlier, the Morgan was making a different sort of history: sailing for the first time through Vineyard Sound. While other whaling ships sailed to and from Martha’s Vineyard, the Charles W. Morgan never did. But many of the ship’s captains and crew members were from the Island.
Vineyard Haven was the second stop on the Morgan’s 38th voyage.
On June 18, the ship departed from Newport, R.I., at 8 a.m., going under tow to the entrance of Vineyard Sound. From there, she sailed between the Elizabeth Islands and the Vineyard’s western shore, with onlookers gathered from Gay Head to West Chop to catch a glimpse of the ship. She arrived at her berth at Tisbury Wharf just after 3 p.m.
From Saturday through Tuesday, the ship was open for tours. There was also a large shoreside exhibit that featured displays from the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and Sail Martha’s Vineyard. There was a life-sized inflatable sperm whale called Spouter. Visitors were greeted by a man with a violin and a ukulele who sang and told stories.
“It was early in the morning just as the sun rose and the man at the masthead yelled out ‘there she blows!’” he began.
There were numerous exhibitions, a coloring station for children, a six-minute video about the ship, and information about whales.
At times, the line to tour the ship stretched down the Tisbury Wharf pier.
Guides were stationed every 10 feet along the line to answer questions and give out information. They explained how whales were caught, and how slim the chances of actually catching them were. They spoke about captains who saved the Morgan, and the most dangerous voyages.
On Monday and Tuesday, Vineyard students visited the ship.
Mystic Seaport director of communications Dan McFadden said 7,822 went through the exhibit and toured the ship over the four days it was open. “Attendance exceeded our expectations and we are very pleased that the ship and exhibit were received so well,” Mr. McFadden said in an email to the Gazette.
“It was a fun port stop and the community could not have been more supportive or welcoming,” Mr. McFadden said.
The Morgan is being accompanied on her journey by the Roann, an eastern-rig dragger that was built in 1947 for Roy P. Campbell of Vineyard Haven. Mr. Campbell dragged with the Roann for flounder, haddock and cod for many years. The Roann was tied up in Vineyard Haven wharf near the Morgan, enjoying a homecoming of her own.
The Morgan is slated to be in New Bedford until July 6. From there, she will sail to Provincetown via the Cape Cod Canal. From July 11 to July 13, the ship will take day sails to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. She will then sail to Boston for a visit from July 18 to July 22, then on to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and New London, before arriving in Mystic in early August. A homecoming celebration is scheduled at Mystic Seaport on August 9. Colette Lathan contributed reporting.