We were up and out the door early yesterday morning, to make the 90 minute drive south to Mystic Seaport, Connecticut. This was one place I have wanted to visit for as long as I can remember, and I’m so happy we finally got there.
If you haven’t been to Mystic Seaport, it is a living history museum consisting of a village, ships, and seventeen acres of exhibits depicting coastal life in New England in the 19th Century. It has what I consider to be the best collection of nautical items and ships of that time period to be found anywhere.
Mystic, Connecticut has been involved with ships and the sea since the first Europeans settled in the area. For over 200 years, ships built in Mystic hunted whales and carried trade goods to and from everywhere in the world.
We started our visit with a stroll through the streets of the small village, pausing to talk with these two ladies we encountered in one building. They were delighted to tell me that one could board one of the new steamships sailing out of Mystic at 5 PM, have a leisurely dinner and retire early, and wake up in New York City at 5 AM. Can you imagine? Mystic to New York City in just twelve hours? It’s amazing!
At the Stone General Store one can purchase anything they need, from groceries to yard goods, to salves and ointments.
The lady on duty at the village print shop was filling in for somebody else, and admitted that she didn’t know a whole lot about the early-day printing process. But since I was a printer’s devil when I was a youngster, I was able to explain a couple of things to some the kids who were there, and I think they enjoyed it.
Then this young man came in, who was also not one of the regular printers, but he still did a pretty good job of turning out a hand bill on the old Washington flatbed press.
I sure like the conveniences of computers for putting together the Gypsy Journal, but every once in a while I do like to see some of the old letterpress shops and reminisce. I always tell Miss Terry that if we ever retire, I’d love to be the country editor at a living history museum.
One building had an amazing collection of elaborately carved figureheads from old ships. The craftsmanship and attention to detail on these things is amazing.
Several buildings had collections of small wooden boats, and we spent some time admiring them.
Then we moved on to the big boats! Well actually, ships if one wants to be technical. We toured the schooner L. A. Dunton and watched a demonstration of loading one of her small boats aboard, and then one on raising the anchor with the aid of the ship’s 100+ year old gasoline engine and a lot of physical labor.
This beautiful ship is the Joseph Conrad, built in 1882 in Copenhagen, Denmark. She saw service as a luxury yacht, as well as a training ship for sea cadets and the Merchant Marine. She sank in a collision in 1905, with the loss of 22 cadets, but was later raised, repaired, and put back into service.
Mystic Seaport is an active ship restoration facility, and a lot goes into keeping her floating displays in good shape. A wooden ship begins to deteriorate the day it is launched, and from that day forward it is a constant battle against the effects of weather, time, and burrowing worms that eat the very wood of the ship itself. It was amazing to see the size of the planks they use in some of this restoration work.
This is the Australia, or what is left of her. Originally named the Ella Alida, she was a blockade runner carrying supplies to the South during the Civil War. Seized with her illicit cargo in 1863, she was sold at auction and spent the rest of her life hauling legitimate cargo. She is maintained in this condition to show what the ravages of a life at sea will do to a wooden ship.
Mystic Seaport is home to the Charles W Morgan, the last surviving American wooden sailing whale ship in the world. When she was launched in 1841, the normal lifespan for a sailing ship was 20 years. But the Morgan was in service for a total of 80 unbelievable years, making 37 voyages to hunt for whales! Many of these voyages lasted from three to five years.
The Morgan has been on display at Mystic Seaport since 1941, and has been named a National Historic Landmark. Currently she is undergoing a complete overhaul of her hull inside a structure built just for that purpose. We climbed four flights of wooden stairs to get to the deck so we could tour the proud old ship. That was quite a climb on a hot day for a fat guy like me, but how many times do you get to walk on the deck of a treasure like this?
We spent about six hours at Mystic Seaport, and while we saw a lot, we still didn’t see everything there was. This is really one of those places where you need a couple of days to get the full experience.
All of that sightseeing and climbing up and down stairs and below ship decks sure make you work up an appetite. And if you are in Mystic, Connecticut, how can you not go to Mystic Pizza? The restaurant was made famous in the old Julia Roberts movie of the same name, and while I’ve never actually watched the movie, I do love pizza! It was less than a mile into downtown Mystic, and though traffic was pretty busy, we found a municipal parking lot a couple of blocks away.
I had heard different reviews on Mystic Pizza; some people said it was good, some said it was so-so, and one of the girls working at Mystic Seaport said it wasn’t very good at all. But I decided we had to find out for ourselves. And here I am, ready to dig in!
I really liked it! The crust was light and delicious, and though it wasn’t overly spicy, it was very good. About the only thing I would do different is not order extra cheese, which we usually do on pizza because Terry really likes cheese. This time it was so much that it was too much. But not to worry, that didn’t keep me from eating so much of it I had to waddle back out the door.
By the time we got back to our motorhome at Sturbridge Outdoor World, we were very tired from our long day of playing tourist, but it was sure worth it and boy, did we create some wonderful memories of our day at Mystic Seaport!
Thought For The Day – The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials – Confucius