Mast-stepping ceremony for Charles W. Morgan

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After a five-year, multimillion-dollar restoration, the 19th century whaling ship the Charles W. Morgan is taking an important step in her restoration.

On Oct. 17, the crew at Mystic Seaport’s shipyard will begin the process of stepping the masts, a milestone bringing the Morgan one step closer to her 38th Voyage to historic ports of New England in the summer of 2014.

The mast stepping process, seen as an important occasion during a ship's construction, will be marked by a brief ceremony at 10 a.m. Oct. 17 at the Henry duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport to present the coins that will be placed under the ship’s masts.

A tradition said to date back to ancient Rome; it is believed that placing a coin at the base of the mast is good luck for the ship and her crew. As the tradition goes, if the ship were to sink, the coin would ensure the crew will pass safely on into the afterlife. In commemoration of the Morgan’s history, three coins have been selected for placement under each of the ship’s masts; each representing a significant event in the Morgan’s life: 

1841 U.S. silver dollar: Representing the original launch of the Morgan.

1941 U.S. silver half-dollar: Signifying the Morgan’s arrival to Mystic Seaport.

2013 U.S. silver dollar: Symbolizing the current restoration.

“Each coin selected represents a milestone in the Morgan’s prestigious history. The Morgan has survived arctic ice, fire, hurricanes, and more on her 37 voyages across every ocean of the globe. We hope these coins will continue to protect her as she embarks on what may be the most important mission of her career: carrying a cargo of knowledge to celebrate America’s maritime heritage,” Mystic Seaport president Steve White said. 

The coins to be set under the masts replace three coins removed when the previous masts were taken out in 2008. They were a 1908 Barber Silver Half Dollar, an Eisenhower Silver Dollar dating from 1971-1977 – corrosion from the hostile environment in the hold of the ship made it impossible to read the specific year, and a 1997 U.S. Silver Dollar. Each coin signifies a mast replacement during the Morgan’s life. 

Although stepping the masts is an extensive process that will take two days continuing on Oct. 31, the ceremony is an opportunity to commemorate the Morgan and her restoration.

The Oct. 17 ceremony will take place at the beginning of the first day of the mast stepping and will give the public an opportunity to see the coins before they are taken below, and witness a maritime tradition and historic event as the first mast gets lifted into position.