Maintaining History: Historic Vessel Maintenance at Mystic Seaport

As boat owners are well aware, all vessels require a certain amount of dedication and upkeep. Historic vessels like those found at Mystic Seaport can be especially high maintenance. While the art of wooden shipbuilding has been largely superseded by the advent of steel and fiberglass, a team of specialized craftspeople can still be found restoring and maintaining these beautiful vessels.

Using historical tools like axes and hand planes, Museum staff restore vessels that date as far back as the 1800s. The Museum’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard features shipwrights, sawyers, metalworkers and other experts in the methods used to build these ships originally. While they may use modern tools like chainsaws for the initial phases of certain projects, the final finish of every vessel is applied by hand using historic methods.

Visitors to Mystic Seaport are treated to a bird’s-eye view of the restoration and preservation process from the Shipyard’s visitors’ gallery. From there, the connection between craftsperson and vessel is clear – steady hands methodically caulk seams and carve beams with long-handled adzes. They are artisans hard at work, preserving not only these stunning wooden vessels but also the extraordinary methods and traditions used to build them.