Charles W. Morgan Restoration and 38th Voyage

While this forum is my favorite source for current events in our ever-changing industry it is also important to remember that in this industry in particular where we came from is just as important as where we are going. I know of (almost) no other industry that is as steeped in history and tradition as ours is, and also where it is taken equally seriously by all those involved. To that end I would like to share some things about the currently on-going restoration of the 1842 whaling ship, Charles W. Morgan.

For those of you who don’t know, the “Morgan”, as she is affectionately known, is the United States’ last original wooden whaling ship. You have all almost undoubtedly seen her at some point in your lives because she is the poster child for the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. The museum has its own fully functioning shipyard and has now spent the last several years pumping millions of dollars into the 172 year old ship to ensure that she will see a further 172 years, and then some, of success.

Part way through the restoration it was decided that if the Seaport Museum was going to spend all this money on her then they might as well go the full monty and bring her up to a fully operational status. She has now been recently relaunched she is being re-rigged in preparation for her 38th voyage as an entirely sail-powered vessel. It was announced today that Kip Files, the longtime owner and captain of the three-masted Maine windjammer Victory Chimes, has been named master of the Charles W. Morgan for her 38th voyage.

There is an excellent thread on the “Woodenboat Forum” that dates back to February 2010, in which a volunteer for the Morgan project has documented her restoration at an extreme level of detail. There are literally thousands of pictures from the day they hauled her out of the water until today of every aspect of the vessel’s rejuvenation. I would encourage anyone who is even the least bit interested in this project, or her history, to check out the thread.

I hope I have piqued some of your interests,

  • Paddy West

Photos from her launch here -

Also this was sent to me today:

[B]Mystic Seaport Names 22nd Captain of the Charles W. Morgan[/B]

[I]Richard “Kip” Files to take the helm of the 19th-century whaling ship
ahead of her voyage next summer[/I]

MYSTIC, Conn. (Nov. 6, 2013) – Mystic Seaport named Richard “Kip” Files of Rockland, Maine, as the new captain of the 19th-century whaleship Charles W. Morgan, which will venture back to sea next summer to visit historic ports of New England celebrating the importance of America’s maritime heritage.

At the conclusion of a five-year, multi-million dollar restoration at the Museum’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard, Files will take the Morgan on an approximately three-month voyage from May to August 2014 in Southern New England waters.

“This is an extraordinary undertaking and it will be exciting to take this ship back to sea to discover and share what it was like to operate a wooden whaleship as they did throughout the 19th century,” Files said.

As the owner and captain of the 132-foot, three-masted schooner Victory Chimes out of Rockland, Files is no stranger to sailing large ships without an engine. He is also the primary captain of the 207-foot barque Elissa, owned and operated by the Galveston Historical Foundation and Texas Seaport Museum. Files holds a U.S. Coast Guard Master Ocean License for Inspected Passenger Vessels of up to 1600 Gross Tons. He has been a master of traditional sailing vessels since 1978. He also served on the boards of Tall Ships America (formerly the American Sail Training Association) and the Ocean Classroom Foundation.

“There are very few people in the world with the knowledge and experience of traditional square-rigged sailing necessary to do this job. Kip is one of those people and we are confident we have found the right person to lead the ship on her 38th Voyage,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport.

Files will arrive at Mystic Seaport to start work on November 11. He will be charged with hiring the Morgan’s crew and preparing and equipping her for the 38th Voyage. After a period of fitting-out and sea trials based in New London, Conn. Files will sail her to Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, and Boston. The Morgan will also venture into the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and participate in the centennial celebration of the Cape Cod Canal. The voyage will be a commemoration of the role of the sea in the history of America and an appreciation of our changing relationship with the natural world.

“For someone who has made his living with traditional vessels this is quite an honor,” Files said. “The 38th Voyage will be one of the most significant maritime events in my lifetime, and I feel privileged and humbled to be part of this historic voyage.”

As the 22nd captain of the National Historic Landmark and the last wooden whaling ship in the world, Files takes his responsibility for the well-being of the vessel and the safety of the crew very seriously.

“The most important goal is to achieve a safe voyage for the ship and all who sail on her,” Files said. “The Charles W. Morgan is an irreplaceable artifact of America’s maritime heritage and her well-being is paramount.”

At 113-feet long, the Morgan was launched in New Bedford, Mass. in 1841 and had a whaling career of 80 years and 37 voyages that spanned the far reaches of the globe. While her original cargo was whale oil and bone, now her cargo is knowledge. Commanding this American icon and presenting her to the American people as a living portal into an important chapter of our history is an honor, Files said.

Although he’s sailed in oceans across the globe for close to half a century, Files said he hasn’t yet experienced a favorite sail. However, the Morgan’s 38th Voyage is “going to be a quite the adventure,” he said.

About Mystic Seaport

Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum. Founded in 1929, the Museum is home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the Charles W. Morgan, America’s oldest commercial ship and the last wooden whaleship in the world. The museum is located one mile south of Exit 90 off I-95 in Mystic, CT. Admission is $24 for adults and $15 for children ages 6-17. Museum members and children 5 and under are admitted free. For more information, please visit