Two afternoons each week are devoted to extracurricular activities on the Mystic Seaport grounds in one of many traditional maritime skills. The activities are designed to enhance the Williams-Mystic curriculum through hands-on learning and interaction with Mystic Seaport’s skilled staff, composed of artisans and craftsmen, sailors and musicians, teachers, historians, and authors. You’ll benefit from the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom in a relaxed atmosphere among people who have chosen a career at Mystic Seaport.
Just as the original crews on Mystic Seaport’s full-rigged ship the Joseph Conrad and whaling vessel the Charles W. Morgan handled the sails high above the deck, so will you learn the proper ways to climb, set and furl sails, and do rigging work aloft. Mystic Seaport displays living history to its visitors as members of its staff—known as the Demonstration Squad—perform the crafts and skills of a 19th-century seaport community. In this class, you’ll also row and sail 30-foot whaleboats, split codfish, tong for oysters, cook over a 19th-century fireplace and perform other active outdoor skills conducted in the public eye.
Music of the Sea
The power of the sea and the power of song go hand in hand throughout history. Students develop a repertoire of sailors’ songs, including work songs, forecastle songs (sung on board ships for entertainment), and ballads. Seaport chantey men will teach you the history of sea music and encourage you to perform chanteys as part of sail-handling and other demonstrations on the Museum’s ships. No vocal expertise is required.
The boat handling class is designed for students who have little or no boating experience to become comfortable on the water and develop some advanced skills. The class begins with basic sailing terminology and maneuvers, then progresses to individual sailing instruction. Points of sail, rigging and de-rigging, care and maintenance of the vessel, marlinespike seamanship, and water safety are just a few of the skills to be learned. All students master sailing solo in ten-foot Dyer Dhow sail boats.
Get ready to strike while the iron’s hot! The shipsmithing class provides an opportunity for students to focus on a craft found in every 19th century seaport. You’ll work with a master craftsman in the coal-fired forge in the Seaport’s historic Driggs Shipsmith shop, where you’ll create hooks, nails and a selection of objects useful in the past and present.
You’ll work in Charles Mallory’s sail loft while learning the many skills and techniques utilized in sailmaking, along with just a touch of sailing theory. You’ll begin by making a sailor’s ditty bag and sea bag—your very own hand-made matching luggage set. To the untrained eye, a ditty bag is but a simple pouch; to the initiated, however, it is a showcase of the unparalleled craft of the sailmaker. Everything from the hand-stitched seam to the elegantly seized rope work prepares the maker for all the skills needed to make a sail. From these humble beginnings, you will hone your skills and technique, first with a ditty bag, then with the larger sea bag, and bring them to fruition in the creation of a sail.