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A trip back in the past at an old whaling station - elegant sailing ships, printing, working an old forge and flogging a dead horse

The Captain Morgan moored up in Mystic Seaport, Connecticutt

Day One

We awoke to a beautiful day in Groton. Our first port of call (quite literally a port) was Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. After the previous long day, we were all very tired but decided to get up early anyway to make the most of the first day of our great adventure. Breakfast at the Econolodge was not exactly a culinary experience but it filled the proverbial hole – after which we were charged with a modicum of energy.

Mystic Seaport is a fantastic day out and for those who have not been before we would recommend it highly. It is essentially (apologies to those who already know this) a museum of the United States and the Sea. There are tall ships you can go aboard and reconstructions of 19th-century houses and shops.

Arriving at Mystic Seaport Museum
Joseph Conrad full rig ship moored in Mystic Seaport harbour
Charles W. Morgan - the last wooden whaling ship to sail in the world
Blocks and tackle
Hope Jack knows where he is going - Mystic Seaport, Connecticut

Throughout the day there are demonstrations, which involve people much braver than us climbing up the masts of tall ships and also demonstrating the trades of the day. Jack and Emily got to work in the local printers where they learnt about type-setting the old fashioned way. It was interesting to hear how some of the phrases in common use come from this profession, such as upper case and lower case (these were the boxes the type letters were stored in), “putting to bed” (which is setting the final typeset onto the printer bed) and “creating a good impression” (getting a good quality print from the printing machine). Jack and Emily both got to have a go at printing a notice. There is also working blacksmith there who was demonstrating making a decorative leaf, which he later rubbed with a brass brush and gave to us as to carry on our journey. We offered Jack up as an apprentice – as they would have done in times past. It seemed a good way to get him off our hands until the age of 21 – but we didn’t have time for the indenture papers to be written up

Setting the printing press
Making a first impression in the print shop at Mystic Seaport Museum
Typesetting the old way at Mystic Seaport Museum
A genteel form of transport
A working forge
Traditional rope making
Trying out the local transport

After a good day at the Seaport, we went into downtown Mystic, which we found to be a delightful place – helped by the warm balmy weather. Our first stop was the Drawbridge Ice Cream store – so named as it is next to a huge drawbridge. We left with the usual mixture of sticky fingers and faces, and drops of brown tell-tale stains on the clothes. Whilst there were plenty of eating houses available we decided to take advantage of the Tasting Festival that was taking place on one of the local streets. Armed with $40 of vouchers we pigged out on Thai chicken, corn on the cob and some delicious little tartlets. The day was rounded off with a trip around the town. Fortunately, most shops were closed but it was still difficult to stop Karen and Emily going into a few stores. The selection was limited to an Army Surplus store, an upscale clothing shop and a couple of gift stores. We also saw the Mystic Pizza store – made famous by a “coming of age” comedy film starring Julia Roberts. By the way, the store in Mystic was too small so they actually used a warehouse to create a set in Stonnington, CT. Our finale to the day was a mad moment in one of the aforementioned gift stores.

The evenings at busy in the village of Mystic in the summer and fall
A good old fry up
DO I look good in these?

Day Two

Yet another spectacular day in Groton. We decided that we had had so much fun the previous day in Mystic Seaport we would visit again to catch some of the activities we had missed the day before. On particular event on the agenda was the “Dead Horse Ceremony”. In the days of the great sea voyages on the wooden tall ship, sailors were given an advance by the ship owners to buy what they needed for their journey. Inevitably this was spent on women and drink and not the essential provisions. This being the case they had to borrow more money to get the necessary items and set off to sea in debt. After a month or so these debts would be paid off and to mark this event they had this “Dead Horse Ceremony”‘ where a horse made from rope, sails and barrel would be beaten, kicked and generally abused, dragged around the deck and then hoisted from the yardarm. This would all be accompanied by the ubiquitous sea shanty. At this point, the horse would be unceremoniously dumped into the sea – and being weighed down by ballast would sink down to Davy Jones Locker. This event was reconstructed aboard the Joseph Conrad, one of the resident tall ships, and Jack and Emily joined as the indebted crew members.

Flogging a dead horse
Understanding the traditions associated with life at sea in the 19th century brings the stories to life

After casting the poor horse into the water (by the way, no animals were hurt in the making of this blog) we decided to take a look around the Sabino, a 99-year-old steamboat and admired the wonderfully maintained steam engine. Now exhausted from the morning’s exertions we decided to take a leisurely cruise on a water taxi along the Mystic waterfront. Emily and Jack did their best to talk to the poor man running the boat to death but it was relaxing nonetheless.

All aboard the water shuttle
The Mystic Seaport Museum is a fantastic dayout for the family

In summary …

  • This a fabulous place to take the family for a day or even two – there is a lot to see
  • I now know ‘flogging a dead horse’ is a nautical term
  • Who knew rope making was so involved!
  • If you go during the summer or weekends outside of the busy season then there are plenty of volunteers to make your visit extra informative

Planning your trip to Mystic Seaport Museum

Location:75 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, CT 06355
Telephone:(860) 572-0711
Website:https://www.mysticseaport.org/
Hours:

May 1-October 31   Open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

November 1-December 31   Thursday-Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Admission:Adults $25, Seniors (65+) $23, Youths (13-17) $21, Children (4-12) $18, Under 4 Free

 

Getting to Mystic Seaport Museum

Mystic Seaport Museum is located in Mystic, CT about 10 miles east of New London, CT. See below for more Mystic Seaport Museum directions.

From Boston and Points Traveling South on I-95

  1. Take Exit 90 off I-95.
  2. Turn left at end of ramp onto Route 27 South.
  3. Proceed approximately one mile.
  4. Parking for Mystic Seaport is on the left.

From New York City and Points Traveling North on I-95

  1. Take Exit 90 off I-95.
  2. From right lane, turn right onto Route 27 South.
  3. Proceed approximately one mile.
  4. Parking for Mystic Seaport is on the left.

From Hartford, Connecticut

  1. Route 2 East to Route 11 South
  2. Left onto Route 82
  3. Right onto Route 85
  4. Route 85 to Interstate 95 North.
  5. Interstate 95 to Exit 90.
  6. Turn right at the exit, Mystic Seaport is one mile south on Route 27.
  7. Parking for Mystic Seaport is on the left.

By Train or Ferry

Amtrak trains serve Mystic and New London daily. Contact Amtrak for more information. Long Island residents can reach New London via Cross Sound Ferry.

Best time to visit Mystic Seaport

Summer has always been the most popular time for New England travel destinations, primarily because of warm weather and water activities. The same is true for Mystic, Connecticut. June through August, and again during the fall foliage season, is the most expensive time to visit as the weather is at its most favourable and outdoor activities such as kayaking, schooner tours, and pleasure cruises enhance the coastal experience. Holidays and school vacation periods throughout the year are also peak times. However, off-season events such as Mystic Seaport’s “Lantern Light Tours” in December and New England-themed shopping year-round draw visitors to the area during less popular months.

Where to stay?

1. WHALERS INN

If you are looking for something located close to the Mystic Seaport Museum then the Whalers Inn is a great option.

Located in downtown Mystic. close to all the action, and only steps from the Mystic River and the Bascule Drawbridge. 

This boutique hotel has five buildings housing 45 guest rooms. 

Due to the historic nature of our property guestrooms are not handicap equipped.  The rooms are accessible by stairs only.  The property does not offer elevator service.

2. INN AT HARBOR HILL MARINA

A bit further away (about 12 miles) from the Mystic Seaport Museum, the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina is another good choice. 

The inn is known for their scenic waterfront location, exceptionally clean rooms, friendly and helpful staff, and ideal location featuring a host of great restaurants and things to do in the local Mystic Country region.  The Inn at Harbor Hill Marina is close to Mystic, but far from ordinary! 

3. MARGIN STREET INN

The Margin Street Inn captures the quintessential spirit of New England with its white exterior, dormer windows and porch.

The Inn is located about 7 miles from Mystic in the equally charmingly named Westerly, Rhode Island. The property is made up of two buildings with 10 guest rooms. The Inn’s estate has 6.5 acres of beautifully manicured, historically important land perched on the bank of The Pawcatuck River in Downtown Westerly.

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