Mystic Seaport Museum and the Submarine Force Museum (Nautilus)

Well…. after a night of extreme blustering winds and rain, we woke up to….. blustering winds…..   The rain had totally ceased and we could see blue skies.  Not to play down the force of the winds.  It must have been F8 often.

We had our free hotel breakfast (pretty nice) and then headed to the Mystic Maritime Museum which was about 1/2 mile from our hotel.  What a fantastic place.  You could easily spend all day here.  We spent 4 hours and if the weather had been just a bit better, we’d have been here all day.  There is just so much to see.

Firstly, this is a working historic shipyard.  Probably the main focus of restoration of wooden ships in the world, certainly in the USA.  There are a number of ongoing projects.  Probably the most prominent at the moment is the restoration of the Mayflower II ahead of its sail-back to Plymouth next year for the 400 year anniversary of the landing.   Our visit began in the shipyard where they are working on her.  What a fabulous thing!  We got as close as we could (it is secured of course) and could only admire her.  It is nearly finished.  I wish we could be back next summer to see her sail into Plymouth.  Like all these old ships, she’s not big.  It brings it home how horrendous the crossing must of been with over 120 souls crammed aboard.

We then explored the rest of this museum.  It is enormous, stretching across a huge waterfront.  Lots of historic yachts, boats, ships of all sizes and types, all with some iconic link to the USA, most with historic links to the Eastern Coast.  Whaling plays a huge part, particularly in this NE part of the world.  Utterly fascinating displays, many interactive, bearing witness to the changing face/view of whaling over the last 200 years.

We went aboard the whaler, Charles W Morgan, the last of an American whaling fleet that numbered more than 2,700 vessels. Built and launched in 1841, the Morgan is now America’s oldest commercial ship still afloat – only the USS Constitution is older.
The Morgan was launched on July 21, 1841 from the yard of Jethro and Zachariah Hillman in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She typically sailed with a crew of about 35, representing sailors from around the world. The whaleship measures 106 feet, 11 inches length on deck with her beam measuring 27 feet, 9 inches. Her main truck is 110 feet above the deck; fully-rigged, and she carries 7,134 square feet of sail. The huge try-pots used for converting blubber into whale oil are forward; below are the cramped quarters in which her officers and men lived.   It was bigger than I expected, but still… you wouldn’t want to spend the average 4 year voyage on her.

There was a lot on the whaling industry which employed multiple thousands in the nineteenth century.  There were thousands of boats which explored some of the most far flung parts of the world.  Very interesting.

There were lots of other boats to explore.  Some absolutely beautiful little sailing craft, all wood and varnish, pristine sails…. born of a time past when beauty and elegance on the water still counted for something.  Look at this one website   or many of the other Herreshoff cat craft yachts lovingly preserved within the museum.  We really enjoyed it.

After viewing and exploring the waterline, we moved to the “maritime Village” pitched one street back.  This recreates the sort of maritime settlement that would have been in old Mystic back in the 18/19C.  The buildings have all been transported from around the local area to give an idea of a seafaring community.  They are staffed with craftsmen, still at work.  So, you can visit a maritime blacksmith, a cooper, a clock/navigational instrument craftsman, chandler, schoolhouse, inn, apothecary, bookshop, printer… etc etc.  Each shop has a docent, who gives you a great talk and explanation/demonstration of the craft.   Brilliant!

Before we knew it, we it was 2pm and we wanted to move on.  In the summer, it would definitely be a full day outing as you can go out on the river in some of the craft.  Today, in gale force, not so…..

We drove south to Groton, to visit the USS Nautilus museum, part of the national submarine base museum.  First time I’ve ever been on a submarine, and this one was one of the first nuclear submarines.  An excellent self guided tour with audio.  I don’t think I could actually do it… So crowded inside and apparently this is one of the bigger ones.  Some of the crew are sleeping 10 to a tiny room in stacked bunks.  Urrrgggg…. no…. but so interesting to see and to imagine being in this tiny craft deep under the water for months at a time.

The day passed so quickly.  We ended up at Walmart, to buy some much required groceries to take back to the UK.  Bob had to have his cans of clams (going to make chowder), clam chowder (for the nights when only instant will do) and …. sausage gravy….   I had to have a jar of this amazing shower gel I’ve found… plus the very wonderful Listerine Whitening Startling White mouthwash.  I also bought many packs of cake mix and pudding (for my Cake Doctor recipes), some packs of jello (for alcoholic desserts to come)….. basically nothing very healthy but……

Came back, and pretty quickly turned around and headed out for dinner to Red 36 restaurant for dinner.  We wanted  to be there for at least part of happy hour (runs 3 – 6) for the 1$ oysters.  As it happens we were there for about 515.  Our intention was to have oysters and drinks for appetisers and then a genuine main dinner….

Well….. that was the intention….. what happened was that we sat at the bar and had our first wines and oysters.  Well…. they were so good….. we went again.  ie. 2 wines (large) and 24 oysters in…… we decided we would stick with the Happy Hour menu.  We had a platter of clams, and the calamari rings in a peanut sauce, and the clam flatbread with Bacon, Garlic, Oregano, Parmesan, Olive Oil, then the Shrimp Flatbread with Ancho Chili Rubbed Shrimp, Roasted Tomatoes, Black Bean Salsa, Mozzarella, Mixed Greens.  Everything was just amazing.  Big plates.  I could have been greedy and just gone on…. I did have 3 massive glasses of wine throughout.  Bob had 2 beers.  It all came to about 55£. Yes that’s for loads of food including 24 fresh oysters and all the wine.  My advice is: go for the Happy Hour menus in these places.  Loved, loved, loved Red 36.  Just go there…

What a fab place. Right on the water, surrounded by boats and just gorgeous scenery in every direction. Oh, if we’d come here last night…. we’d have come twice in two nights. Probably the best restaurant dining experience we’ve had this entire holiday.