A Mystic Diversion

Charles W. Morgan ship
Small boat enthusiasts set sail for the annual Small Craft Weekend at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut this weekend, just as they have every June for the past 30 years. They're rowing and sailing and just plain bobbing there, in every type of small craft imaginable or unimaginable.

With everything maritime, ranging from small craft to handicrafts, through the summer and all year round, Mystic Seaport is a nautical mecca, a safe harbor for those who love ships and seafaring lore.

On June 17, the seaport launches an ambitious new exhibit, "Voyages: Stories of America and the Sea." It's a multimedia depiction of the influence that sailors and the seas - and the rivers and lakes - have had on Americans in every part of the country.

And, no summer at Mystic Seaport is complete without the annual Melville Marathon. For 24 nonstop hours at the end of July, book lovers will gather on Herman Melville's birthday for a reading of his great whaling saga, Moby Dick.

Boats and sailing have been a way of life since the 1600s in this village on the Mystic River halfway between New York and Boston. Before 1840, the village was a thriving fishing and whaling port. Five shipyards in Mystic launched 600 vessels between 1784 and 1919.

The wooden shipbuilding industry began to decline just after the Civil War. But Mystic Seaport still bustles. Since 1929, it has been a not-for-profit maritime museum and educational institution that displays the largest collections of boats in the world.

More than a million visitors come here from around the world each year. More than 700 volunteers run the 19th century village of tall ships and historic buildings, the exhibit galleries that display the culture of seafaring lives, and the shipyard where the art of wooden shipbuilding endures.