Historic whaleship set to launch in July

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After a multimillion-dollar restoration lasting almost five years, the whaleship Charles W. Morgan, a National Historic Landmark and America’s oldest surviving commercial vessel, will return to the water July 21.

The launch will occur during a public ceremony at 2 p.m. at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ric Burns will deliver the keynote address and the ship will be lowered into the Mystic River.

The Morgan’s restoration has been conducted in the museum’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard. The project, which began in November 2008, has focused primarily on restoring areas of the vessel from the waterline down to her keel and structural work in the bow and stern. Once the boat is launched, the shipyard will complete the restoration with the vessel in the water. The remaining work includes rigging, internal carpentry and reinstalling much of the ship’s equipment.

“The Charles W. Morgan is an exceptional and truly unique artifact of our shared maritime heritage,” Mystic Seaport president Steve White said in a statement. “She is the last remaining wooden whaleship in the world and the sole survivor of a fleet of American ships that once numbered more than 2,700. The Morgan is quite simply an American icon and a living portal into an important chapter of American history.”

The 113-foot vessel was built and launched in New Bedford in 1841 and had a whaling career that lasted 80 years and 37 voyages that spanned the far reaches of the globe. The ship came to Mystic Seaport in 1941. More than 20 million people have walked her decks since she arrived.

The flagship of the Mystic Seaport watercraft collection will once again set sail in late May 2014. The Morgan will embark on a ceremonial 38th voyage to historic ports of New England to celebrate the importance of America’s maritime heritage. After a period of refitting and sea trials based in New London, Conn., the ship will sail to Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford and Boston. She also will venture onto the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary near the mouth of Massachusetts Bay and participate in the centennial celebration of the Cape Cod Canal.

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