On to New Bedford

The gangplank was pulled away and the Charles W. Morgan, under tow, departed from Tisbury Wharf at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The last wooden whaling ship was escorted by more than a dozen boats as she left Vineyard Haven harbor. The Island Home ferry was right behind her. Boat horns and cannons sounded, and onlookers lined the wharf from Eastville Beach to Tisbury Wharf to get a last glimpse of the ship. Outside the harbor, the schooner Shenandoah was unfurling her sails.

The Second To Last Whaling Ship

When the Charles W. Morgan was sailing through Vineyard Sound toward Vineyard Haven last week, she passed by the very spot where the second to last surviving whaling ship wrecked nearly 90 years ago.

The whaling bark Wanderer—she stood in for the Charles W. Morgan during sailing scenes in the movie Down to the Sea in Ships—was the last whaling ship to sail out of New Bedford. Shortly after leaving New Bedford for a whaling voyage, she anchored off Cuttyhunk and was wrecked during a fierce storm on August 24, 1924.

Life on a Whaling Ship

What was life like aboard the Charles W. Morgan when she was an active whaling vessel? Often smoky and oily.

After a whale was harpooned, it was hung off the side of the ship while the men aboard went about removing the head and then the blubber, which was brought aboard and rendered into oil in the brick try-works on the top deck.

Edgartown Whaling Ship Ocmulgee, Sunk By Confederate Raider

The visit of the Charles W. Morgan gives us a chance to explore the depths of our own whaling history here on Martha's Vineyard.

One ship with an interesting tale is the whaling ship Ocmulgee and her encounter with Confederate raiders during the Civil War. The Ocmulgee was the first ship sunk by the war vessel Alabama.

Memories from a Captain's Son

Captain James A.M. Earle, a Vineyarder, was the Charles W. Morgan's captain for nine voyages--far more than any other captain.

Mr. Earle married Honor Matthews, a New Zealander he met when he attended a navigation school in Auckland. They were married in Honolulu during the Morgan's 21st voyage.

Whaleboats and Whaleboat Racing

The Charles W. Morgan opens to visitors Saturday. She'll be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday.

There are some special events planned for Saturday, including a parade of vessels scheduled at noon. At 1 p.m. there is a whaleboat race, with five whaleboats built for the voyage racing between West Chop and East Chop. The race will be three miles.

Hardtack and Turtles

When the Charles W. Morgan opens to visitors on Saturday, take a look at the galley on the deck, and the captain's dining area on the tween deck. The crew for the 38th voyage, mercifully, is not adhering to the same diet that whaling men had (one reporter spied Dunkin Donuts aboard the ship a few weeks ago). But over 80 years the captains and crew ate a lot of meals aboard that ship--though the diet for greenhands was quite different than what the captain and officers ate.

Another Historic Ship Comes Home

While all eyes--and cameras--were on the Charles W. Morgan Wednesday as she sailed into Martha's Vineyard, one of the ships that accompanied her deserves some attention on her own.

The Morgan's companion ship for her 38th voyage is the Roann, an eastern-rig dragger from Mystic Seaport. The Roann was built in 1947 by Newbert & Wallace Shipyard in Thomaston, Me for Roy P. Campbell of Vineyard Haven. Mr. Campbell's wife was named Annie, hence the name Roann.

Vineyard Haven Welcomes First Whaleship in a Century

The sounds of cannonfire and honking horns greeted the arrival of the whaleship Charles W. Morgan, which sailed into Vineyard Haven harbor about 4 p.m. From the shore we could see Captain Kip Files at the stern of the ship issuing orders by radio.

As the ship rounded West Chop about 3:15, her majestic rigging was visible behind the masts of the Shenandoah. The last wooden ship in a whaling fleet that once numbered 2,700 has come to Martha's Vineyard.

Readying the Sails for the Turn Into Vineyard Haven

We're approaching the two channel markers that everyone recognizes off of West Chop. Dead ahead of us is the schooner Alabama. We are surrounded by a flotilla of maybe 25 boats, ranging from catboats to Nat Benjamin's schooner, Charlotte. Cangarda is still behind us.