This just got real!

New London 6/4/14

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Furling the sails. Yeah, it just got real.

I’m finally here! I arrived in New London on June 2 and that’s when the crew, headed by Captain Kip Files and 14 sailors discovered me.

Yes, I am a 21st-century stowaway. Equipped with high-tech cameras, a laptop and iPhone, I am blogging this summer’s 38th Voyage aboard the Charles W. Morgan. I might be coming to a port near you.

On Monday morning I moved all my belongings to the ‘tween deck, the area between the upper deck and the cargo hold. The t’ween deck isn’t very comfortable for anyone standing more than 5’ 5’’, so I’m learning to walk with a hunched back because it’s much more favorable than a bruised head.

The t’ween deck smells a bit like smokey varnish, but it’s oddly pleasant and not too overpowering. The t’ween deck contains the blubber room, the galley, the officers’ quarters and forecastle, commonly called the fo’c’sle.

In the blubber room looking towards the fo'c'sle

In the blubber room looking towards the fo’c’sle entrance.

I’ve settled into a cozy bunk on the port side of the fo’c’sle, Since the berths are only six feet in length and I stand at 6’3,’’ I opted for the curvature of the ship’s bow to yield a couple more inches of precious foot room. During the night the ship slowly sways and lulls me to sleep.

Ryan Leighton

I share the fo’c’sle with two other deckhands – Ryan and Dan. Here’s a picture of Ryan.


Ryan Loftus

I knew Ryan was a good guy because he offered me some of his beef jerky my first day aboard. Always remember a man’s character is measured in beef jerky.

I understand fitting in with the crew is going to to take some time. After all, I’m just the stowaway, and I don’t possess the skills and vast knowledge of these hardy sailors.

With windblown hair, tanned skin and tar on their clothes, the Morgan’s crew members are intelligent, hardworking, fun-loving, gregarious, and extremely focused on the job at hand.

Stowing away on the Morgan is a bit like being the new kid in school. Everybody knows who I am, but in order to fit in, I’m going to have to earn their respect first.

The last three days have been a flurry of activity both on and off the ship. The crew has been hard at work installing the rigging and making last minute adjustments before her sea trials begin on Saturday.

On June 7 the Morgan will sail under her own power for the first time in more than 90 years. The last time the Morgan sailed under her own power was under Captain Cleveland in 1921.

Sail training sessions have kicked off in the afternoons and lasted until sunset. That time is reserved for training Mystic Seaport staff, the people who have worked with the Morgan while she was docked during all those dormant years.

Here are some pics and a video of the core crew and sailing deckhands going aloft and practicing training drills on Monday and Tuesday.

All aloft to set sail!

All aloft to set sail!

A victim is hoisted to safety during a mock training drill.

A victim is hoisted to safety during a mock training drill.

New London definitely has the characteristics of an old whaling port. Narrow, one-way roads weave around historic buildings. The golden days of whaling and industry are separated by strip malls, art shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.

But beyond the the ferry horns and incessant clanging of Amtrak trains, one will discover the quirky local colors – murals decorating old building facades, a giant whale’s tale fountain in the middle of the town square, and my favorite so far, a bartender’s t-shirt at Oasis Pub that says “New London Hates You.” That’s the local color I’m looking for.

There are more stories to come from New London, but  those will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, here’s a video: “iPhone vs. Whale Fountain.”

Obviously, a lot of time and preparation has gone into the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan and 38th Voyage. I’m primed and ready to blog.

But my daily blog isn’t the only place you can experience the 38th Voyage. You can follow me on Mystic Seaport’s Facebook page, and my personal Twitter and Instagram feeds as well. The links are located in the upper right corner of this page.

More to come soon!

~Ryan Leighton “The Morgan Stowaway”