New London’s Secret Club

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Since the weather is keeping us in port for an extra day, I decided to dig a little deeper into New London’s past.

Most people know that the Charles W. Morgan is the last wooden whaling ship of her kind. What most people probably don’t know is that there once was an exclusive club in New London called the “Jibboom Club,” and I now think of myself as unofficial member.

First of all, I really enjoy saying the word “jibboom.” It’s one of my favorite sounding parts of the ship, besides the futtocks. The jibboom sits on top what people commonly refer to as the bowsprit. It’s the structural extension protruding from the bow that supports the mast and the jib sails.

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In New London the Jibboom Club was a fraternal organization open to only seafaring men who had sailed aboard a whaling ship. During the 1870s the club met informally in various locations on New London’s waterfront. It was said that the club was made up of eccentric old salts who spun tales and played a lot of cribbage. As the club became more formalized in the 1890s, they wore outlandish costumes, used secret passwords and handshakes, and assembled flamboyant street parades, accompanied by drummers celebrating their patron saint, George Washington. It was also said that Neptune would often make an appearance.

The Jibboom Club eventually had their own headquarters on Bank Street and extended their membership to naval commanders, mariners and yachtsmen. Between 1891 and 1926 the club had as many as 400 active members.

During the Great Depression the club’s membership declined, and by the late 1950s few men still spoke of the great seafaring days.

Now that Charles W. Morgan recently completed her sea trials, there is once again a very small group of people alive who can say they have sailed aboard a whaling ship. So that makes us eligible members of the Jibboom Club, right?


Neptune, a fellow Jibboomer, heard the Charles W. Morgan was in town so he decided to get a look for himself!

Today I walked the streets asking locals where I could sign up to be a member the Jibboom Club. An elderly lady told me a a few people recently revived the club a few years back, and that they held a parade recently. She described them as “rapscallions who dress in funky clothes and play the drums.”

She said the Jibboom Club still meets at the U.S. Custom House, a historical landmark on Bank Street. I also learned today that the Custom House was the federal building that handled the court documents in the infamous case of the Amistad. The slave ship was seized off the coast of Long Island in 1839 and brought to port in New London.

Unfortunately when I arrived at the Custom House the doors were locked. I guess the Jibboom Club will have to wait until we return to New London in August. That will give me plenty of time to sharpen my cribbage skills.

The more I learn about life on a ship, the more I enjoy the sailor’s lifestyle. This crew is similar to the Jibboom Club , because they are part of a small circle of professionals who sail tall ships for a living. They are strong, independent, and compassionate to their fellowship.

Movie night in the foc'sle

Movie night in the foc’sle

Tonight it’s movie night aboard the Morgan and the crew is watching “Captain Ron”  in the foc’sle.

Tomorrow there is more work to be done, but I am happy to say that the anchor chain is now wrapped around the windlass and the whaleboats have been hung on the davits.

Two of the four whale boats are now hanging from the davits.

Two of the four whale boats are now hanging from the davits.

Ten of the 38th voyagers will be arriving in they next couple days, and pretty soon, New London will be at our stern as we sail northeast to the City by the Sea. Newport, here we come.

That’s all for now,

– Ryan