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Mystic Seaport and a Rope Treasure

Any few hours spent at the Mystic Seaport will yield a surprise or two, even if you've been there dozens of times. I've loved the place since I was a kid and the Charles W. Morgan was hard-docked in sand. We went this Black Friday after Thanksgiving, figuring correctly that the crowds would be stuffing the malls and the seaport pathways would be lightly traveled.

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A massive eye splice -- wormed, parceled, served, and tarred. When was it made? On what ship did it serve? Doug Logan photos.

It was first aboard the L.A. Dunton, a Gloucester fishing schooner from the era of Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous. Her spars were out but she'd been recently recaulked and painted. Then to the Morgan. She was not only afloat but heeling slightly to a brisk northerly that was hinting of the snow to come. Then aboard the Joseph Conrad, the sail training ship whose second incarnation was so well-chronicled by Alan Villiers. Then respects to the Emma C. Berry, to my eye the prettiest gaff sloop of them all. Then, eventually to the Rope Walk.

As we were leaving we looked between the buildings and spotted an amazing rope trove under the roof of an open shed. There were old tarred shrouds and ratlines aplenty, but also some of the most wondrous examples of wormed, parceled, served, and decorated marlinspike work that could be imagined: massive eye-splices, hawser and cable ends, and some items whose purpose I'm ashamed to say I can only guess at. It's off to the old maritime reference books for me, and I'll follow up with anything I find.

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