In the town of Mystic (yes, the very same Mystic in Mystic Pizza starring Julia Roberts) Connecticut is the Museum of America and the Sea, or simply, the Mystic Seaport. Our original purpose of visiting this site was to see the Charles W. Morgan, the last surviving American wooden whaling ship. With that being said, there is a lot to be seen at this gem of a place.
First off, Mystic Seaport is a working restoration yard which routinely repairs and restores wooden vessels of all sorts, employing local men and women and versing them in the skills of a truly dying art. Docked at the seaport during our visit was the Mayflower II and the Sabino, a 1906 steamboat under restoration until 2016.
On the gravel path to the shipyard is a long building holding the key components to the structure of a wooden ship, including the keel, ribs and frame as a lesson in how wooden ships are put together. Inside the shipyard itself is an a exhibit revisiting the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan, and using that restoration as the vessel to educate visitors on the tools of the restoration trade, the materials and types of woods used in shipbuilding, and the hazards to wooden ships to include weather, reefs, and wood-boring marine worms. The back drop to the exhibit are the sounds of power tools as Mystic shipwrights work on restoring the Sabino.
The Charles W. Morgan was open for viewing and proved to be a pretty impressive vessel in it’s own right. Add to this an extremely knowledgeable volunteer eager to school us in the history of American whaling and it made for a very cool experience.
As with the USS Constitution, we happened to luck out and stumble on the seaworthy replica of the slave ship La Amistad, subject of the movie Amistad, berthed at the Seaport for the winter and shipping out the very same day for New London.
There’s more to Mystic Seaport than the ships though: the Seaport also runs the traditional shops and buildings dedicated to 19th century seafaring, to include a smithy, shipping agent’s office, and nautical instrument shop, to name a few of many. Mystic Seaport is another one of those places where visitors should dedicate at least three hours to see everything there is to see there.