Touring the Whaleship Morgan

The line to visit the Charles W. Morgan winds down Tisbury Wharf dock. — Photo by Kelsey Perrett

Tuesday, June 24, is the last call to explore the Charles W. Morgan whaleship before she departs Vineyard Haven Harbor and continues her 38th voyage on to New Bedford. You may have glimpsed the enormous vessel in full sail as she arrived in Vineyard Haven last Wednesday (if not, see our video), but the experience of touring the Morgan and corresponding exhibits is not to be missed. For a five-dollar suggested donation, you’ve purchased a ticket to a 22,000-square-foot festival.

Before even boarding the boat, there is a lot of activity to check out. The Morgan arrived equipped with a crew of volunteers who are well versed in the ship’s history. You can hear talks on the roles of the shipsmith, cooper, and ropemaker, complete with demonstrations of 19th century tools. Other performances include sea chanteys like those sung aboard the Morgan, and a retelling of “Moby Dick in Minutes.” Or, catch your five minutes of fame starring in an interactive theater piece.

Herds of local school kids visiting the Morgan were thrilled with the whale-shaped hats they colored and crafted. Guests are also invited to share their memories, questions, and drawings of whales on a sheet of paper, then attach it to a wire whale collage. The exhibit even includes “Spouter,” a life-size inflatable whale to give you some perspective of just how big a 46-foot whale is. Some lucky visitors are invited to row in one of the whaleboats, built right here in Vineyard Haven. And other, really lucky visitors might get to throw a harpoon.

The real draw for most folks is getting on the ship itself. Be prepared to wait a few minutes — the line has been queued up down the dock all weekend — but it does move fairly quickly. On deck, you get close-ups of all the rigging, vintage harpoons, the galley, and the helm. Squeeze down the stairs and you can see the captain’s quarters and the rest of the ship’s underbelly. Just remember to watch your head.

The whole exhibit is decked out with informational placards, but if you have a question, the volunteers in the blue shirts are as knowledgeable as they are friendly. The exhibit is open 9 am to 4:30 pm through June 24. For more information, visit