A graceful sail to the City by the Sea

Yesterday, an early morning muster provided us with wonderful sailing weather for our first transit from New London to Newport.

We mustered before dawn and cast off from New London’s City Pier at 6:30 AM.

Dawn muster in New London

Dawn muster in New London

We were towed to the outskirts of Fishers Island Sound. We left the harbor and set the topsails and the staysails on the main and mizzen masts. A steady north to northwest wind blew 20 to 25 knots, and pretty soon the tug was having trouble keeping up with us. By the time we reached Watch Hill Point Passage, we were pulling a steady 6 knots. It was glorious!

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It doesn’t get any better than this!

The Charles W. Morgan flew all of her sails for the first time, including the highest sail, called the “royal.” Here is some spectacular footage we captured our deckhand Cassie Sleeper climbing to to top of the main mast to unfurl the royal (This might be unsettling for people with a fear of heights).

Aboard the Morgan we had about 25 deckhands, 9 voyagers as well as a few Mystic Seaport staff. The mood was lighthearted and joyful. How could it not be? It was an amazing day to be sailing a 19th-century whaling ship.

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There was a brilliant teal-blue hue in the water, rather than the typical New England cobalt. I was surprised by the sprawling sandy beaches in Rhode Island (I come from Maine, so I’m used to nothing by rugged rocks and bluffs, which are good for stubbing toes and twisting ankles).

We gracefully sliced through the waters during the afternoon, with a flotilla of yachts, ketches, sloops and schooners surrounding us as we made our way into Narragansett Bay.

Sailing thoughts: 

Back in the whaling days, the lowest experienced deckhands lived in the fo’c’sle. That’s where I currently live. As a deckhand acquired more skills and moved up the ranks, their quarters moved further aft. Boatsteerers and mates occupied the midship quarters, and the captain lived near the stern.

Learning to sail a square rigger is a humbling experience. I’m used to being told to redo things. Taking care of the ship is our number one priority, so I don’t take it personally when someone points out a mistake that I’ve made. Everything has to be done correctly. On the Morgan, the more I learn, the more I realize there is so much more to know.

We arrived in Newport at 14:20 and I was standing atop the topsail yard. The views of the Narragansett Bay were breathtaking. The Newport suspension bridge, Goat Island and the mansions dotting the shoreline are gorgeous. I definitely want to see some of the mansions while I’m here.

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Arriving into Newport-the City of the Sea

Newport is called the “City by the Sea,” but it probably should be called the “City of Sails.” Sailboats outnumber motorboats 10 to 1 here.  Although the Morgan might not be the most expensive ship in the harbor, we are definitely the most impressive.

We’re currently tied up at Fort Adams. Even though our stay in Newport is brief, I’m eager to learn the history of this place. From what I’ve read, Newport was a major center for spermaceti candle manufacturing, which contributed to the city’s wealth and success.

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Today Newport is known for having the longest suspension bridge in New England, and the U.S. Naval War College. It also hosted the America’s Cup from the 1930s to the 1980s.

But there is plenty more to see, so I think it’s time to head into port and explore!

Stay tuned,

– Ryan