The final moment of the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan came on the date above when the pride of Mystic Seaport sailed back to its dock. All the onlookers gathered at various spots along the Mystic River to get a glimpse of her as she passed through. This was it—the moment we all knew would come—the Morgan was back to where she was 6 years prior. No longer was she a teaching tool of the craftsmanship that is required to build and restore a 170 year old ship. Once again she was a museum piece. But if ships could talk, she had a lot more to say than ever before.
Rather than run all over the grounds of Mystic I set up camp near familiar territory, just outside the Mystic Printshop. I waited as the Morgan made her way up the river and finally into view over the tops of the buildings on the west side of the Seaport. Seeing her drift above the tree tops I wondered what it must have been like for people who had never seen a ship so big come wandering along their shores. When she was being restored and on dry dock of the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard the Morgan looked more like an out of this world spaceship than 19th whaling ship. Even after watching her make her way up and down the Atlantic Coast for two months, the view of her masts above the trees was something other worldly. She was home.
There was something about that scene of the Morgan coming into her dock that struck. Unless the museum altered its decision, this would be the last voyage she returned home from. Those last few hundred feet were her final seconds of the epic journey.
For this return to Mystic I opted to represent that moment when the Morgan once again became the cornerstone of the museums collection. I wondered how many people showed up to see her and had no idea she was at sea. Or better yet, how many people showed up and had no idea she was missing. The museum wouldn’t be there without the Charles W. Morgan. There are amazing artifacts and living pieces of history all over the Seaport, but for the Morgan to not be there was strange for a few months.
As the colors laid down the shapes of the day started to emerge. Slowly I watched the Morgan appear.
Final color (black) ready to wet the screen. No matter how much you plan and build up expectations there are always unknowns that you know are going to happen. I can feel the anticipation in the photo, knowing the last color would be pulled shortly.
Test prints on the wall, banners drying, I was ready to clean up.
There are so many drawings that were created before I printed the series, many of which had pieces stolen for the final images. The drawing above is of Kip Files, the 22nd captain of the Charles W. Morgan, on the day the Morgan returned home. In honor of Kip and the 21 captains before him I added 22 stars around the title on the banner. With so much superstition tossed around about ships and sailing, it was easy to see how legends were created. My hope is that the Charles W. Morgan lives to tell its tales for many generations to come and that the 38th voyage goes down in history as the legend it deserves to be known for.