A significant milestone was reached Friday in the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan- Mystic Seaport's 172 year old wooden whaling ship.
Mystic Seaport president Steve White addressed over two hundred people gathered beside the giant wooden hull of the Charles W. Morgan.
White- "...the last surviving whaling ship on the face of the of the earth, and the oldest commercial ship afloat in the western hemisphere..."
The Morgan was launched in 1841, and has been the flagship of the Seaport's fleet of training vessels for 72 years. In 2008 she was hauled out at the Museum's shipyard to have over 70% of the planking in her hull replaced.
White- "Ladies and Gentlemen, four and a half years later, we are about to install the shutter plank..."
The shutter plank is the last one to go on the ship, and the last major structural element in the restoration of the hull.
Snediker- "It's always been a point of tradition. The planking aspect of ship construction consumes the most materials and most person hours overall."
Quentin Snediker is the Seaport's Shipyard Director.
Snediker- "So when that's complete it's got a lot of significance. Not only because the biggest part of the job is done, the hull is complete, but, it's also thought of as the completion of the embodiment of the spirit of the hull, as well."
The milestone is usually celebrated by dousing the plank with an alcoholic beverage, and feeding some to the sea gods. As the Morgan was originally built by a quaker, and is being rebuilt by an educational organization that aspect was downplayed. But the plank did get doused in rum behind the scenes.
With the end of the ceremonial speeches, the plank was removed from the steambox where it was being prepared to take its final shape, and delivered via forklift to the team of young shipwrights who'd be installing it over two stories up the side of the hull.
White- "We have an incredible crew here, and that was very symbolic of the passing of knowledge from our older shipwrights to this generation of shipwrights, that will have the skill and talent to take care and preserve the Charles W. Morgan and many others that are afloat around america."
Shipwright- "Alright guys, we're gonna drive this thing."
The work is far from over, as those shipwrights must ready the Morgan for a July launch, and face nine more months of restoration projects once she's in the water. But thoughts of that can wait till later. For now, they can focus on the accomplishment of closing the hull with the shutter plank.