A Day Aboard The Oldest Surviving Wooden Whale Ship [Pictures/Video]
I arrived on Martha’s Vineyard with only some basic knowledge of the Charles W. Morgan’s history and whaling history in general. When I arrived back in New Bedford the following day, I had seen a glimpse of a whaler’s life at sea. Along my nearly eight hour voyage aboard the Morgan, I saw some incredible sights, spoke to some interesting people, and learned a number of fascinating facts.
There were a number of different personalities on board. First there was the ship’s crew that worked the sails and made sure we had a safe and smooth ride back home. Next there were members from Mystic Sea Port, including the sea port’s president Steve White. Coordinators from Mystic were also on board to manage the guests and media. Finally there were the guests. Some were part of Mystic’s 38th Voyagers program, which was comprised of local residents that sailed on the ship and added to the ship’s history with certain talents. These people included artists, writers, and historians. I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of different people that had some great stories to tell.
One of the first people I spoke to was a woman that worked on the restoration of the Morgan from start to finish. She put in hundreds of hours over the five year restoration to get the ship ready for her first voyage in decades. She told me about all the tedious work that had to be done and all the long nights, but she was clear that it had all been worth it.
While speaking with one of the Morgan’s first mates, Sean Bercaw, I learned about a very unique hobby of his while out at sea. Ever since he was a young boy, he had been sailing on ships all around the world. Around the age of 11, Sean began to put messages in bottles and toss them overboard and to see where they would end up. He would put his address and phone number in the bottle so whoever found it could contact him. Over the years, he has thrown more than 200 bottles into the ocean and has heard back from nearly 80 people.
Everyone on board had an interesting story to tell. The great-great-great-great-grandson of Charles W. Morgan was aboard and is originally from New Bedford. This voyage into the harbor was his first time visiting his home town in years and he was beyond excited.
I also got to chat with the ship’s captain, Kip Files. He was an easy-going guy and told me he felt honored to be at the helm for such a historic journey. He was great at explaining what the crew was doing on deck and how things were done back when the ship was used for whaling.
The most amazing moment for me came as we made our way through Buzzards Bay. Plenty of people had sailed alongside us as we got closer and closer to home, but seeing the thousands of people lined up along the beaches and the walls of the New Bedford/Fairhaven hurricane barrier was a sight I’ll never forget. That’s when it finally hit me that I was a part of history by sailing on this ship as it returned home.
Spending half of my day on the Charles W. Morgan and meeting tons of interesting people was such an amazing experience. I can’t thank the people that made it possible enough. This is something that I will truly remember forever and I’m so glad I get to share it with as many people as possible.