TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan had been a state only four years when the Charles W. Morgan, a whaling ship, launched on July 21, 1841 in New England seas.
On July 21 this year — the Morgan’s 172nd birthday — the restored 113-foot ship and its eight replica whaleboats will officially celebrate a second christening. One of those replicas on board its decks will be built by three Michigan historic boat preservation groups, including Traverse City’s Maritime Heritage Alliance.
The Great Lakes Boat Building School, located in the eastern Upper Peninsula’s Les Cheneaux Islands, is putting the finishing touches on the almost 29-foot replica whaleboat similar to those used by harpooners in the 1800s. The boat is made of Michigan-only wood, primarily white oak and northern white cedar, and measures 28 feet and 5-3/4 inches long, with a 6-foot-5-inch beam (width at its widest point).
MHA shipwright volunteers are building the replica’s 16.5-foot mast, 24-foot boom and 23.5-foot gaff, all made from Douglas fir shipped from Oregon.
And the Michigan Maritime Museum Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association in South Haven is making oars for the boat and for another of the eight replica whaleboats to be constructed by historic boat preservation and restoration groups along the East Coast from Virginia to Maine. Each pair of oars is 15 or 16 feet.
The whaleboat will be a centerpiece at the Great Lakes Boat Building School’s graduation. After that it will come to Traverse City for a free public display on June 20 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the MHA’s Edwin and Mary Brown Boat Shop in Building 1. Great Lakes Boat Building School instructors Bud McIntire and Pat Mahon will be on hand to discuss the project.
From there, they will trailer the replica to South Haven for a two-day boat conference and then continue the journey to Mystic Seaport Museum, the largest and oldest maritime museum in the United States, said Frank Clements, an MHA board member.