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VIDEO: Historic whaleship under way on Northeast voyage

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The world’s last wooden whaleship departed Mystic Seaport Saturday to begin her 38th voyage, the first since 1941.

The Charles W. Morgan, a National Historic Landmark vessel, was towed down the Mystic River and over to nearby New London, Conn., the first stop on what will be a nearly three-month journey to historic ports in southern New England.

“Today’s brief journey is the culmination of an incredible amount of work and effort by the Mystic Seaport community. This is a proud moment for the museum and everyone who contributed to making this voyage a reality,” Mystic Seaport president Steve White said in a statement.

The ship, which has not left Mystic Seaport since it arrived on Nov. 8, 1941, led a procession of vessels down the Mystic River, including the museum’s steamboat, Sabino, its fishing vessel, Roann, and five whaleboats rowed by Mystic Seaport staff and volunteers.

The ship was cheered by crowds of onlookers as she made her way downriver en route to Fishers Island Sound. Several hundred people greeted her as she arrived at City Pier in New London.

In a tragic twist, a spectator who was sailing in a processional behind the historic vessel is missing, and family members believe he might have fallen overboard.

Daniel Strelczuk, 62, of Thompson, Conn., disappeared from Fishers Island Sound on Saturday afternoon while leaving the mouth of the Thames River in a procession behind the ship, family members told NBC Connecticut News. Coast Guard planes, boats and helicopters searched for Strelczuk for about 19 hours, but called off the search about 2:45 p.m. Sunday.

The Charles W. Morgan will be open to the public in New London with an extensive dockside exhibit on May 24 and 25 and May 31 and June 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The ship departs on the next leg of the 38th voyage with a transit to Newport, R.I., on June 14. After that stop, the ship will visit Vineyard Haven, Mass.; New Bedford, Mass.; and Boston, where she will dock next to the USS Constitution.

She will also anchor off Provincetown, Mass., for day sails to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, where the Morgan will team with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to observe whales in their natural environment and call attention to man’s changing relationship with the natural world.

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