P-Town to Beantown

Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument and the pride of Boston Harbor – the U.S.S. Constitution

Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument and the pride of Boston Harbor – the U.S.S. Constitution

In between blogging and deck duties, I really enjoy snacking. Sailors love snacks.

In today’s snack box, amongst the granola bars, M&Ms and beef jerky, there was a peculiar tin can with a funky little label.

 “Olde Plowe Salt Horse – For the discerning mariner.”

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Aren’t you just a little curious?

Ok, so I was curious and opened the can. Not giving much thought to the mushy pink cat food-like substance inside, I took a bite. Here’s what happened next.

Salted (or “corned”) beef and pork were dietary staples for sailors and soldiers in the early 1800s. The salted meat was traditionally stored in barrels, and would often be eaten with a hard biscuit called “hardtack.”

I later discovered that my unexpected ration came courtesy of Tom Sullivan, one of the 38th voyagers. He thought it would be hilarious to photoshop a “salt horse” label onto a can of corned beef. Good joke Tom, you got the best of the stowaway…I’ll certainly never look at cat food the same way.

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Tom with the “salt horse” and “hardtack”

Tom wasn’t just here to slip new rations into my bag. In fact, he was on today’s voyage is because he is the guardian of a special piece of history – a slab of white oak that was found at the bottom of the Charlestown Navy Yard. While doing some excavation work in the old storage facility at the shipyard, Tom’s brother discovered large oak timbers buried at bottom of a wet basin. The wood dates back to the 1860s and would have been stored in salt water to prevent the wood from rotting. By 1912 a portion the storage facility was filled to make more usable land, and the timbers were forgotten until Tom’s brother dug them up many years later.

Instead of being shipped to Maine to become wood chips, the timbers were salvaged and sent to Mystic Seaport in 16 tractor trailer loads. Those salvaged timbers were used in the planking, futtocks, and framing of the Charles W. Morgan.

Tom has held on to one small piece of that wood, and he has taken it on some fascinating journeys – he carried it while navigating around Cape Horn last February!  “The Horn” was (and is) a treacherous passage for any vessel. During her career as a whaler, the Morgan sailed around the horn on multiple occasions. In honor of the 38th Voyage, Tom donated the piece of wood to Mystic Seaport. Soon, it will be installed on the Morgan.

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You see, good stories are like buried treasure. It just takes a little digging to find them…or in my case…a can of “salt horse.” Yum.

I hope to see you in Boston!

– Ryan