A MYSTIC EXPERIENCE


| August/September 2000



Gail E. Anderson Looks at Some Models

As the granddaughter of generations of farmers on one side of the family, and the granddaughter of a gas and steam engine enthusiast on the other side, I grew up knowing a little something (notice I said a little, but at least I knew that much) about farm power of yesteryear. However, I knew next to nothing-well, let's face it, I knew nothing-about how engines were once used in non-agricultural (i.e. marine) applications.

Now that I've got a husband with a burning interest in marine power, and particularly marine steam power, I'm learning more about it myself, and finding it a fascinating subject all around. I'm not embarrassed to ask him stupid questions whenever we're out in our steam launch Reciproca, or whenever he's got its engine torn apart for 'tweaking,' like 'What's that gauge telling us? Why is that important? Why's it making that little whistling noise? Where's the water come from? Where's it go? If you fall overboard and drown, how do I get back to shore?' You know, the basics. And he never hesitates to try and teach me more about all of this. We've been to boat meets, toured steamboats and steam-powered ships, been in the engine room of a Liberty ship while it was under steam and under way-all great places to learn.

I have to say, however, that of all the places we've been in this quest for knowledge, few compare with the great times I've had attending the Antique Marine Engine Exposition at Mystic Seaport. In six years, we've been to this show three times, and I enjoy it more each time.

Mystic Seaport, 'The Museum of America and the Sea,' is a fascinating place to hold an engine show. The site is one of the country's foremost maritime museums, with countless exhibits and activities taking place. There are sailing ships to board and explore, demonstrations of old-time seafaring skills, sea chantey sing-alongs, tales of sails and whales, planetarium shows about navigating by the stars, exhibits of ship carvings, a gallery of fine paintings of ships good and true, displays of small craft and the engines that powered them... oh, it never ends! This is not to mention the setting within which all of these things are presented: a village filled with the authentic shops and structures of a coastal settlement. Not a frou-frou seaside resort where the pretty people promenade, mind you, but a real working seaport.

Doesn't it sound great? And I haven't even begun to really tell you about the show yet! Well, let's get on with it!

The show itself is held within the DuPont Preservation Shipyard area of the museum. Here you can see stacks of wood being seasoned for use in building and maintaining the ships on display, learn about shipbuilding techniques, and see some of the tools and equipment used in that trade. We even saw a ship under construction: a full-scale replica of the Amistad, the vessel which played a role in a landmark case involving the slave trade in early American history (see the movie of the same name!). She's sailed off by now to New York City, for a Tall Ships event in July.