At four in the afternoon, the entire cohort for the day assembled in the Fishtown Chapel to hear from Steve White, director of the Mystic Seaport Museum. He very engagingly described the steps by which the Museum had come to envision the possibility, and then embrace the opportunity, of sending the Morgan to sea again. Part of this involved internal dynamics among the museum staff. After making a monumental decision to renovate the ship from the waterline down to preserve its long-term viability as a floating museum truly worthy of its National Registry of Historic Buildings status, there came a sudden recognition, almost as if from the ship herself, that they could do something almost unthinkably more—to sail her. Once this realization set in, the time suddenly seemed right, and staff and donors were ready to buy into what was needed in terms of skill, dedication, and investment.
One of the key moments for Director White was during a meal with a potential donor who said that renovating the ship was not enough, that it was important to think bigger. When Director White compared this decision to the one President Kennedy had made in the early 1960s to send American astronauts to the moon by the end of the decade, Wyn Kelley spoke for many of us in saying she had already been thinking of the 38th Voyage itself as somehow equivalent to a moon shot. Questions were many and answers were cogent and substantive. We told him how delighted we were with the interdisciplinary nature of our participation and how grateful we were to him and to the whole institution for the opportunity to be part of it. The chapel in which we met had been used by a variety of evangelical denominations at Fishtown, a crossroads near Mystic, in the nineteenth-century before being moved to the Seaport Museum in 1950.
What I most remember our meeting with Director White’s talk came when someone asked, “Don’t you worry about what might go wrong when you take such an old ship as this out to sea?”
“There is always an inherent risk in going to sea,” he answered. “Sailors always have to be resourceful and adjust to the moment. That is what a voyage is all about.”