Mystic Seaport uses old and new technology to restore historic whaler Charles W. Morgan

Mystic Seaport used its new lift to move the 167-year-old wooden whaling ship Charles W. Morgan out of the water and onto land for extensive repairs.

The hauling of the historic vessel on Nov. 1, 2008, benefited from the museum shipyard’s new 500-ton Synchro-Lift.

“These historic vessels are rather fragile, and the Synchro-Lift’s state-of-the-art lift technologies can monitor all the stresses and strains on the Morgan’s hull system,” said Quentin Snediker, shipyard director of the historic seaport in Mystic, Conn. “Hauling them from the water is one of the most vulnerable times for any kind of vessel’s life experience.”

The lifting process is similar to one involving a traditional marine railway. With the lift platform and cradle lowered, the ship is floated over it. Then it is lifted above the water and moved inland on rails.

“This system fulfills the dream of the guys who built this shipyard 35 years ago,” Snediker said. “This is the third major restoration program on the ship since the early 1970s, and this work will connect the different segments previously rebuilt.”

Work to prepare for the lift was underway in October. With the conclusion of the down-rigging, the workers had removed everything down to the deck, including the bowsprit, which is to be replaced as part of the restoration.

Over the next two to three years, work will concentrate on an 8- to 12-foot-wide band on both sides of the ship’s midsection. Exact ribbing and plank replacements are fabricated at the shipyard’s sawmill. Locating the suitable wood to duplicate Morgan’s original construction was a painstaking process. Live oak and long leaf pine, which are normally difficult to obtain, became available because of recent hurricanes that took down aged trees along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

The goal, Snediker said, “is to keep the historic integrity of this shapely old wooden vessel, which is the last surviving ship of her kind.”

Richard O. Aichele

By Professional Mariner Staff