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For the vast majority of us west of interstate 95, the name Mystic doesn't strike a familiar cord. Or, you might have a vague memory of a motion picture a few years back, titled Mystic Pizza. It didn't win any academy awards but it did feature a little known, though promising actress named Julia Roberts. Mystic is not a pizza however, but a locality. It derives it's unusual name from the Pequot Indian word, "Mistuket."

Movies and pizza aside, Mystic is actually a small community in Connecticut. Her glory days were centuries back when clipper ships ruled as the undisputed sovereigns of the high seas. Mystic was not only an active port-of-call, but perhaps more significantly, the village was home to two large ship building companies. One of the fastest clippers ever to ply the waves, the David Crockett, was constructed in Mystic. Those triumphant days are but a fond memory now, though plenty of enduring evidence remains.

Maritime Offerings

Besides the historic charm of the town itself, Mystic is home to the nation's largest maritime museum, covering seventeen riverfront acres and containing a multitude of ships and nautical stuff to set even a sailor's stoic heart aflutter.

The Seaport has collected dozens of lost moments from America's maritime history and assembled them to recount the age-old saga of man and his love/hate relationship with the briny deep. By preserving the ships, artifacts, buildings and important skills of previous centuries, Mystic Seaport provides a porthole to view the seafaring endeavors of our past. It's not one building, but an entire New England coastal village. The Seaport is an experience for all the senses, from the unmistakable smell of fresh sawdust in the boat shop to the sound of canvas flapping in gentle rhythm to the breeze.

The showpiece of the Seaport is the Charles W. Morgan, considered to be the sole survivor of the fleet of Yankee whaleships. Although the Morgan was similar in appearance to hundreds of wooden whaleships, her records set her apart from all the others. The profits from her maiden voyage alone exceeded the cost of building the ship. In her day, she was a prize.

By the 1920's whaling and the Morgan were obsolete. She had a brief fling with the film industry, as the set for two silent movies, Down to the Sea in Ships and Java Head. In November of 1941, the Morgan finally came to rest at her final home, Mystic Seaport. Several times each day, intrepid staff members, including females, climb the riggings to furl and unfurl the powerful sails. Like their counterparts from years past, these no-nonsense folks balance precariously on shifting, thin ropes as their hands move the sails, proving to all who witness the demonstration that sailors are indeed stalwart souls. No wonder Popeye needed all those muscles in his arms.
But, ships are only one part of the complete story. Over 60 buildings, authentic to the time period of 1814 to 1914, are painstakingly preserved at the Seaport. Each building represents a critical component in the social and economic framework of a thriving seaside village. Visitors travel back in time to see the standard one-room school house, the rigging loft and the life-saving station, among others.

The figurehead exhibit in the Wendell Building is exceptional. The unsmiling figures, each with an unearthly gaze, stare forever toward distant horizons. Fitted out in resplendent costumes, their life-like expressions beseech Poseidon for a safe voyage. Their presence seems to beg the question; what have these silent adventurers witnessed in their prolonged days at sea?