A Travellerspoint blog

Day 60 (10.31.07) - Old Mystic Seaport

I spent so long here, we didn't visit anything else, but it was worth it!

sunny 64 °F

Happy Halloween!

Summary: I visited Old Mystic Seaport, a leading maritime museum including three tall ships and a recreated 1870's seafaring village.

Logistics: Miles Driven - 76, Weather - Sunny, mid 60's F, Camped at Hartford Wal-mart. Mom elected to stay in the RV today, I'm not sure why but maybe she just needed a day off.

Details: Warning - I've always liked sailboats. My favorite book as a kid was a book full of paintings of old sailing ships. Put me in a museum village full of tall ships, small ships, ship support businesses - this blog entry might get a little long winded (yes, even more than normal if that's possible).

Old Mystic Seaport consists of 17 acres in the town of Mystic, Connecticut. It is a museum and preserves, restores and displays a number of things. Primarily, it recreates a bit of a seafaring village from 1870 - the last golden years of the great sailing vessels. There are three tall masted ships in the water at her wharfs. There are also quite a few buildings - some representing ship building and businesses that supported ships, but also the types of buildings you would find an any village in 1870 - a grocery store, bank, church, school, printing office and homes. There are also exhibits and displays you can go through as well as the ever present gift shop.

The main part of the museum is set up as a seafaring village with ships at their wharf.


I started at the far left end of the museum, which consists of the Shipyard.


This is part of the museum, it contains signs explaining what things are, historic diesel engines and saws as well as lots of wood (yes, even historic wood). However it is also a working museum. They use this to maintain and restore wood ships.

Next I visited the first couple of wooden ships along the wharf. This first one is quite small and plain looking, 'nothing to shake a stick at' so to speak. The picture isn't that good either, the cabin is somewhat lost in the small ferry behind her.


The sign explains more - this is the Gerda III, built in 1928 for the Danish lighthouse and bouy service. In 1943, her crew felt they could use their boat to help rescue Danish Jew's from the Nazi's and ferry them to safety in Sweden. With some help from their boss, they rescued about 300 people in small groups of 10 to 15 at a time. The rescues on the Gerda III were part of a spontaneous effort that rescued more than 7,000 Jews from the Nazi's in Denmark.

Next to the Gerda III was one of the tall ships at the museum, the L.A. Dunton


The L.A. Dunton is a fishing schooner built in 1921 that made about 18 trips a year in search of halibut or haddack. Engines were later added and in her final working days, she served as a coastal freightor until about 1963 when she was sold to Mystic Seaport for preservation. You can go aboard this ship. Here is a picture of her forecastle, where the crew slept and ate when they weren't working.


In addition to these boats, I went though buildings used by the United States Life Savings Service (a predessor to the Coast Guard), a Lobster Shack, a fishing shack and more. One building housed a ship skeleton - a sailing boat that had been used during the Civil War by the Confederates to try to run the blockade the Union put around the South. A Union gunboat caught sight of her and gave chase, whereupon the captain ran aground by error or accident. The Union captured the captain and crew and put them on trial. They also sold the boat at auction.

One building particularly caught my eye - the Plymouth Cordage Company:


Plymouth Cordage was founded in 1824 by Bourne Spooner, who ran the company until 1870. By the end of the 1800's new machinery had made buildings like this largely obsolete (it was called a ropewalk and was originally over 1,000 feet long). In 1950, company employee's saved this section of the building and reassembled it at Old Mystic Seaport, together with it's machinery. Besides being an interesting study in itself, it is a good example of the types of exhibits at this museum - including a mix of signage to explain things and antique buildings and machines. In some exhibits (but not this one), museum employees are available to explain or demonstrate various things.

Here are a couple of the boards and pictures that describe the history and process of rope making (If you're new to this blog, these are 'thumbnails'. You can click on them to enlarge them):


Now, here are pictures of the machines that made the rope in Plymouth Cordage Company:


With a little less detail, here are a few more examples of some of the other buildings in the museum:


The general store might use a little more background. This is a local, neighborhood store from 1870 (the period represented by the whole village). This was a time when packaged goods were just beginning to replace bulk products, so in this store you see both - some canned goods, some large boxes. It also sold many household appliances and goods, such as this butter mold.


Before I had a chance to explore all of these buildings, I heard someone playing an old style accordian. He was one of the Mystic Seaport people who work throughout the museum to help us landlubbers get our sea legs, and was actually quite good. I'm sorry I didn't get the beginning of this, but at least it may get you into the spirit!

So, now that you've been properly entertained - lets go back across the street to the Print Shop.


My sister Penny actually used a small hand printing press to make business cards when she was in High School and can probably tell you a lot about movable type, typesetting, etc. I did learn a couple of interesting things. Look carefully at the type trays below that have been set up to work from:


Capital letters are in the tray on the top or upper tray, small letters on the bottom or lower tray - hence the terms 'Upper' and 'Lower' case letters. However, my sister is the one who ran the printing business - what I know can probably be summed up in a big 'duh?', so I should probably let an expert explain the process to you:

Finally I did make it to the other two tall ships. The first one, Joseph Conrad is used as a floating dormitory for various programs and not open to the public.


The Charles W. Morgan is the last surviving wooden whaling ship. She was built in 1841 and sailed 37 voyages before retiring in 1941.


Visitors are allowed to board this ship, which of course I took full advantage of... (again, click to enlarge or get more descriptions of these images):


By this time I was getting pretty tired, so decided to check out the Tavern, which somehow I forgot to upload a picture of. It was a tavern, but also sold sandwiches, root beer, and 'Fruit of the Forest' Pie slices. Dana, the Tavern Keeper, not only had to deal with roudy tourists, but also had to bake the pies and keep the books for the Tavern - can't get much more real than that! By the way, she was also very friendly and her pie was delicious...


So having been somewhat thoroughly emersed in the seafaring village of Old Mystic Seaport, I reluctantly realized I had an RV out in the parking lot and needed to move on. It was already after 5 PM by then, far too late to visit any place else today. So knowing that the local RV parks were closed for the season (the one we stayed at last night was their last night open until next spring), I decided to (reluctantly) hit the freeway and zip (to the extent you can in an RV) up to Hartford Connecticut.

I pulled off approximately where Mapquest showed the Hartford Wal-mart to be, but it was wrong. While I fired up the laptop to recheck my locations (and set up the GPS mapping software), Mom decided to try to get help the old fashioned way - to check the local gas station. The GPS software (combined with an accurate address) did locate the Wal-mart correctly, but Mom's approach was even better.

The gas station attendant casually threw out a few directions, which didn't help too much, so another patron told her not to bother with him and offered to drive us there herself! It turned out that we were several miles off course, the correct direction required an unusual exit off the left side of the freeway - so her help was greatly appreciated! Unfortunately she didn't pull over once we got to Wal-mart, so we didn't have time to thank her, but this has to be the best and most kind local assistance we've seen yet!

Posted by jl98584 19:31 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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I look forward to reading your comments each evening. This one really brought back memories, as we took the kids and visited Old Mystic Seaport while we lived in Hartford in the early '70s. I well remember those left-hand exits off of I-84; I assume that's what you were on. And where is your Wal-Mart? I'm wondering if you are anywhere near the seminary, where we lived. One of the streets at its corner was Fern, which, if followed out, went to W. Hartford. I can't remember the cross street the seminary faced on, nor the main street a block away, though I almost can.

by msj

Sounds like you could have spent way more time in Mystic, but must press on, oh well. I finally was able to catch up on the blog! I've been so busy this week! It was great to get out of town for a break, but its good to be back, too. Of course, we're going out of town Sunday again, just to Whidbey Island, to a B & B owned by a friend, for our anniversary. Yes, we actually have one, as we became official Domestic Partners in California in 2003. Of course, that doesn't count in Washington. the anniversary is actually Saturday, but that's the night of the Verbena annual auction, the major fund raiser for the Lesbian heatlh entity. I am volunteering as a doctor two Mondays a month. We'll see how that goes. Que

by drque

I think the Wal-mart was in West Hartford, but we didn't take the time to find the seminary.

I totally understand about lack of time...

by jl98584

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