Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall Fun: A Mystical, Magical Weekend, Part 2

Our evening at Mystic Seaport began in the parking lot across from the main entrance at 5:45 as we gathered together 13 girls, 2 brothers, 4 moms (Mama and I included), and 2 dads for an overnight program on a 19th-century sailing ship, the Joseph Conrad.

We walked into the Seaport, carrying all of our gear, which we stow on the ship.  You'll notice that the photos are all cloudy and dark--it was a very overcast fall day, but not windy and not too chilly.  The bunks were stacked three high, with a few smaller cabins available for adults only.  I nabbed the cabin because it was the best bed for my back.  More on the night later.  We practiced our fire drill first and then began our adventure:  the girls were going to play detective for a uniquely nautical mystery.


My cabin!

Divided into two groups (Mama and Bud were in the other group), the girls were presented with the conundrum of the Morgan's captain's daughter's lost tooth.  They were given a list of suspects who had access to the captain's quarters and began their search . . . . They went to the scene of the crime first--where the daughter slept in the captain's quarters.  Then . . . .
to the quarters of the cabin boy . . . 

to the cooper's workshop. . . . 
They also went to the chandler's, where they learned more about whaling voyages (3-5 years!) and the crew (who was paid what) and supplies ("baggy wrinkle" protects sails from rope burns.)  They received a message recorded in Morse Code, which they raced to translate, working in groups.  They also compared handwriting samples of the various people involved.  And then they examined a fingerprint of the person whodunit!  I won't spoil that part, but I will answer one question:  why would someone take the girl's tooth?

Because it wasn't her tooth, but a whale tooth with scrimshaw!!!

As a bonus, the program leader let the girls try their hand at scrimshaw, albeit on plastic tokens, not real bone.  The girls loved sketching and then carving their own scrimshaw; we all realized how hard it was to see where you'd worked the token.  I can't imagine doing it on a rocking ship!

A few examples.  Bud's is the lighthouse (#2) and mine is the compass rose (#3.)

It was around 9:15 p.m. when we returned to the ship, supposedly to go to bed.  Eventually.  First, we all explored the deck and downstairs.  One of the educators gave us a lot of great information about life aboard a ship--who became a sailor (2nd- and 3rd-born sons and those without trade or prospect, plus anyone press-ganged), how they traded for supplies on their long voyages (with beads and things), the different parts of the ship (bow, stern, forecastle, bowsprit) etc.  We couldn't do any star-gazing because of the clouds and no one was ready to sing any sea chanteys on deck.  The kids were more interested in running around, squealing, and climbing on things (not riggings, thankfully.)   They also enjoyed peeping over the deck rail to watch the various groups of visitors on the scary Nautical Nightmare tour--the scary ghost lady was not to far from us and would frighten the visitors.  The girls enjoyed scaring themselves and imagining things (later the next day, the educator told Mama there are rumored to be 23 ghosts on the ship; glad he didn't tell the girls that!)  I won't dwell on how long it took for the kids to get ready and then settle down for bed, except to say it was after 1 a.m. (and after many adult interventions--they were particularly keyed up and not listening to instructions by this point.)

I slept separately in the cabin, where it was colder than I expected, and more comfortable, too.  The boat is sunk into the mud of the shallow port and so doesn't move at all, except with the shaking of running kids!  Still, once I fell sound asleep (after 3 a.m.--just unused to the bed, the sounds, etc.), I had crazy dreams of ships, Titanic, danger, rescuing kids and Mama, blah.  I woke up a couple of hours later at 5 a.m. and decided that sleeping was too much work!  I went and sat on deck in the pre-dawn hours, thinking about the age of masted ships, the uniqueness of sleeping onboard an old wooden vessel, waxing historical and philosophical  . . . . and listening to Mama snore gently, before she woke up, too.  Yep, Mama slept on the deck of a 19th-century masted ship!  It was the main reason she and Bud came on the overnight, to have this rare experience.  And she made the most of it by sleeping up top.  The high sides protected her from most of the wind and she had a mattress to cushion the hardness of the wooden deck.  She loved it.  We sat chatting as the sun rose, watching the sky change from black to blue to overcast gray.  It was supposed to rain.

Because of the threat of rain, our program leaders let us do our rigging climb first.  This is what most of the kids had been looking forward to.  They donned pelvic harnesses and then, one at a time, in a "code of silence," they scampered up the riggings to the first platform.  There were three gold bars strung across there, which were good luck if you touched them.  Both Sis and Bud made it up to the lucky bars.  And so did Mama!  I watched from below (and even that was hard.)


Mama even took a picture of the view on her way up!

After breakfast, the program was essentially done.  Most of the girls headed off with their parents, but some stayed around, like us, and wandered then now-open seaport.  We saw the exhibition on longitude, complete with replicas of Harrison's four machines.  We also saw the planetarium show on the night's sky.  We saw the baking demonstration in the Buckingham house.  And we showed the kids some of the pictures of them as babies and toddlers exploring the place.  We've been going to Mystic for years, even before they were born.

After lunch at the Galley restaurant and a quick detour to the shop, we headed home exhausted, exhilarated, and with lots of new stories to tell.

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