Living History at Mystic Seaport by Bonnie and Bill Neely

Mystic Seaport is a living history museum which replacates an the old whaling village from over 100 years ago. This is a Museum of America and the Sea, not a musty old stuffy museum but a whole village recreated as if you are living a century ago. It is a great place for inter-generational bonding on a day trip. With some interesting features, including a collection of beautifully carved and painted ship masts, many fine art paintings of various ships, and main street buildings of a whaling village.
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Especially interesting are a scale model display of the Mystic River circa 1850 – 70 and an Inuit Eskimo display called Frozen In about Captain Georger Comer, who returned fourteen times to spend the winter literally in an igloo and with his ship frozen-in, to be with his Inuit friends in the Arctic. You’ll meet hosts dressed in 1876 period costumes. Kids love to take a horse and carriage ride, or haul on the lines of one of the huge historic sailboats. Films about whaling days are fascinating, and other types of fishing are documented in films, as well.

At the restoration area, where the Seaport owns about 500 old vessels of different types, the ship repair shop is always busy. A million dollar renovation has added six Rolls Royce hydraulic lifts to facilitate overhauling some of the largest vessels, like the Charles P. Morgan whaler, which will undergo a three-year face-lift beginning soon.
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If you can stay long enough in Mystic, you can get on the water in a number of different types of boats. There are free water shuttles, or you can take a water taxi to downtown Mystic for a charge. You can choose to purchase a ticket for a power boat launch, or sailing cruise, or you can rent a sailboat or rowboat to go out on your own. The S.S. Sabino celebrates her 100th birthday this year, and we really enjoyed our ride on this two turbine, internal water pipe, steam engine, still in pristine condition. She is a quiet ship, and her coal fires efficiently produce the heat to create the steam, as her stoker keeps the brass fittings gleaming like new. She takes passengers many times each day for a ride on the Mystic River.
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Several times each day have the opportunity to see the star show at the planetarium. When we visited there, an astronomer taught us what to look for in the sky we would see that night in Mystic, if there were no clouds. The volunteer explained about the constellations and how to identify various stars. We learned how sailors used a sextant, the predessor of the GPS, mandatory for a sailor’s accurate navigation. Children and adults alike learned much from the pleasant and restful twenty-minute presentation and took home a star guide booklet.
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There are many other places to enjoy at Mystic Seaport, including the Children’s Place, where kids can create water related crafts. In many of the historic shops visitors can make other items to keep, like printing something on an early, moveable type printing press. The village street of shops that were necessary a century ago, in authentic buildings from that era, are a wonderfully educational experience.
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At the Art Spot artists of any age can enjoy painting theier own scenes of the sea, boats, or anything nautical, with all the props of a lifesize maritime scene right in front of you. Summertime workshops are great for children of different ages, with age-appropriate activities pertaining to the sea. On a day trip kids can create a little wooden boat to take home. Three times a day there are classes in fancy knot work, rope slices, wood carvings, Victorian-style pressed flowers, hand-dipped candles, or blacksmithing. Art forms of today were necessary skills of yesteryear, and children and adults will be interested in watching how these were done and often participating hands-on.

Although different in subject matter, Mystic Seaport should be as well visited as Williamsburg,VA, for a hands-on experience of living history. Adults and children will find it fascinating, as we did. Mystic Seaport is open year-round daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas day.
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