The Shutter Plank

Shipwrights at Mystic Seaport installed the final plank on the hull of the 1841 whaleship CHARLES W. MORGAN.
Final Spike
Shipyard staff member Sean Patrick Kelly drives the final golden spike on the shutter plank.

Shipwrights at Mystic Seaport installed the final plank on the hull of the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan on Friday, May 10. Known as the shutter plank because it “shuts in” and completes the hull, the achievement is traditionally a moment of celebration in the shipbuilding process.

The 20-foot long plank of yellow pine was placed on the port side quarter of the hull near the waterline. It was steamed for several hours prior to installation to make it flexible, lifted into position, and spiked in place. Each member of the Shipyard crew working on the restoration signed the plank.

The last spike used to fasten the plank was gold-plated to mark the occasion. F. M. Callahan & Son of Malden, Mass. donated the plating. Company president Eric Jackin presented the 10-inch long fastener to the Museum in an informal ceremony Friday afternoon.

”This moment is a milestone in the continuing voyage of the Charles W. Morgan. The shutter plank is just one small part of the ship’s fabric, but it is emblematic of all the parts, and of all the people, that are coming together to take the ship back to sea for her 38th Voyage in 2014,” said Mystic Seaport President Steve White.

Visitors and Museum staff watch as the shutter plank is maneuvered into position.

The Morgan has been undergoing a comprehensive restoration in the Museum’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard since November 2008. The project addresses significant structural issues in the hull below the waterline and in the bow and stern. While the shutter plank marks the end of principle hull restoration, Museum shipwrights must finish caulking, fairing, and painting the hull prior to launch.

The ship is scheduled to be launched on Sunday, July 21 at 2 p.m. in a public ceremony in the Shipyard. Once back in the water, the Morgan will remain berthed at the Museum’s lift dock through the completion of the project. The shipwrights need to build and restore many peripheral details, build and restore spars, and restore and install the rig. With rare exception, the ship will remain accessible to visitors to board and explore.

Once the restoration is complete in late May 2014, the Morgan will embark on a ceremonial 38th Voyage to historic ports in New England to celebrate the importance of America’s maritime heritage. After a period of refitting and sea trials based in New London, Conn., the ship will sail to Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, Provincetown, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and Boston. She will also participate in the centennial celebration of the Cape Cod Canal.