Melina Gunnett

June 14, 2011

Mystic Seaport and Sea Song Festival

Filed under: Travel — Melina Gunnett @ 6:27 PM

Last weekend was Mystic Seaport’s 32 Annual Sea Songs Festival.  It is one of those events I have been "meaning" to make for years.  I finally made it down there this time and just WOW.  Not only was it a weekend of amazing music, but the town and seaport itself were a great place to visit.

 There were a whole host of amazing musicians at the festival. Unfortunately I tired to take video instead of still shots of the performances.  While my camera is CAPABLE of taking video, it really shouldn’t be. 
The video was halting and jittery to the point of being unwatchable.

This means I don’t have pictures of the festival itself.  That’s OK, music is really better heard than photographed.  The only still shot I took was this one of Richard Grainger, who was my favorite of this years performers.  He has some samples on his website if you want to take a listen.

Richard Granger at the 32nd Sea Music Festival, Mystic, CT 
Mystic Seaport

The Charles W. Morgan
The Morgan is an 1841 Whaleship that used to sale out of Bedford MA.  She is America’s last surviving wooden whaleship and currently undergoing repairs at the seaports preservation shipyard.  She was declared a national landmark in 1966.  You can track her restoration here.
In addition to many small ships, the seaport has three tall ships in port. 

The Joseph Conrad – A square rigged ship which was designed as a training vessel for the Danish merchant fleet. She was built in 1882 and originally sailed under the name Georg Stage. In 1932 she was purchased by Alan Villiers who renamed her Joseph Conrad and took her on a 2 year trip around the world.  She also did a stint as an American training ship until 1945 and was transferred to the Mystic Seaport where she is still used as a training ship for the Mystic Mariner program.

The L.A.Dunton is a Glouster fishing schooner.  She was designed by Thomas F. McManus and built out of Arther Story’s Essex, MA shipyard.  She worked out of Boston and Newfoundland.  When she arrived at the Mystic Seaport she had been retrofitted with an engine.  She has since been restored to her original design and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994

The Joseph Conrad
L A Dunton
The L.A. Dunton

The seaport was more than just ships.  They have created an entire 19th century village.  Perhaps created is the wrong word.  They took actually shops and homes from the 1800’s and moved them to the site.  My favorite was the ship-smith.  The they have the last operating ship-smith and, of course, I don’t have pictures to show you.  I was too busy oogling all the awesome blacksmith equipment they had.  In the future I will try and remember to oogle through the camera lens.

I did manage to take photos at many of the other buildings they had on site.

Coperage at Mystic Seaport There was a cooperage.  It was fascinating to watch the way that they made barrels.  It seems like it would be straight forward, but there is a lot that goes into a barrel, from the bending and fitting of the slats, to making the rings.  They just don’t make one kind of barrel either. 

They made barrels to hold water and ship supplies.  There were special types of barrels for everything from butter to rope.

The ones you see in the picture with Holes in the bottom are for storing the ropes on-board ship.  The pattern looks like a weird version of 9 man morris, but the holes and trenches are to let the water out.  This is important because if you ropes rotted while you were at sea, your ship was in trouble.

The hoops for barrels are now usually made out of iron, but coopers used to have to make them from wood.  Live oak was a popular choice for its strength.
There there was a carving shop where signs, decorative pieces for homes and ships, as well as traditional mast heads were made.  Commercial vessels wanted to be remembered so they would frequently have a mast head carved that would reflect the ships name.

See not all mast heads were scantly carved women.   >>>
(Actually few were.  While it is a good image for Holliwood
movies, it isn’t such a good image for a commercial vessel.)
tThere is a fully functional printing press on site as well. They still use it for demonstrations and teaching.

Indivedual typeset letters

Each word was put together with individual letters.

Then spacers were added to make white space.

Lock the letters down tight in their frame so they don’t spill

Run ink over the letters and add some paper


The you us the press to push the paper down onto the plate with your typeset.

And you should end up with your flier.

Some of the other shops included a chandler, chemist, general store, sail house, bank and tavern. 

Mystic Seaport, being a museum, also had several exhibits.  I’m not sure I got to all of them, but the one’s I remember included mast heads, restoration of the Morgan, a scale model of the entire Mystic seaport as it was in the late 1800’s, and a planetarium which show you how to use a sextant (and let you try it)

To me the most interesting exhibit was Skin and Bones: Tattoos in the Life of the American Sailor which not only gave an great overview of the history of tattoos, but  explained some of the symbolism.  The exhibit had a lot of flash on display, but cards and copies of books you could look through.  (The originals were under glass).


  1. I’m so glad you got to go! Isn’t it the most amazing experience? Great review of the museum, too!

    Comment by Columbine — June 14, 2011 @ 10:29 PM

  2. […] Mystick Seaport And Sea Song Festival Melina Gunnett – June 14, 2011 […]

    Pingback by Small Town Spotlight: Mystic, Connecticut - Hopper Blog — November 6, 2013 @ 3:10 AM

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