Two afternoons each week are devoted to learning traditional maritime skills on the Mystic Seaport grounds. Ranging from shipsmithing to chantey-singing, skills classes offer not only hands-on learning but also the chance to interact with Mystic Seaport staff, from artisans and craftsmen to sailors and musicians, teachers, historians, and authors.
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 nineteenth 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 a simple pouch; to the initiated, it showcases 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.
Music of the Sea
Students in this class develop a repertoire of sailors’ songs: work songs, forecastle songs, ballads, and more. Seaport chantey staff will teach you the history of sea music and encourage you to perform chanteys as part of sail-handling and similar demonstrations on the Museum’s ships. No vocal experience required.
Boat Handling / Boat Building
The boat handling class allows students with little or no sailing experience to both become comfortable on the water and develop some advanced skills. Beginning with basic sailing terminology and maneuvers, the class progresses to individual sailing instruction. Rigging and de-rigging, care and maintenance of the vessel, points of sail, marlinespike seamanship, and water safety are just a few of the skills students learn. By the end of the semester, all participants master sailing solo in ten-foot Dyer Dhow sail boats. Spring semesters, students also learn boat-building skills and participate in the construction of a small boat.
Just as the original crews on Mystic Seaport’s Joseph Conrad and Charles W. Morgan handled sails high above deck, so will you learn how to climb, set and furl sails, and do rigging work aloft. Mystic Seaport displays living history to its visitors as staff members—known as the Demonstration Squad—perform the crafts and skills of a nineteenth-century seaport community. In this class, you’ll also row and sail 30-foot whaleboats, split codfish, tong for oysters, and cook over a nineteenth-century fireplace, all while educating Seaport visitors about maritime history and life.