Beetle Whaleboat to Grace Restored Whaling Ship

The Charles W. Morgan moved to Mystic, Connecticut, in 1941 and was hauled out in November, 2008, for restoration at the Mystic Seaport. After 5 years of work she will be relaunched in 2013 and embark upon a voyage to ports in New England in 2014.

As part of the restoration, the New Bedford Whaling Museum will construct one of the Morgan’s 7 whaleboats.

The Beetle Whaleboat Project will encompass the following:

  • During the summer 2013 aspects of the construction will take place at the New Bedford Whaling Museum and include public participation.
  • In the fall 2013, the whaleboat will race against its Azorean cousins in the International Azorean Whaleboat Regatta.
  • Following the Charles W. Morgan’s relaunch in 2014 voyage, the whaleboat will be available for whaleboat races and interactive educational programs.

Work will commence in fall 2012, and the Museum hopes to raise $85,000 for the project. Donors can contact Alison Smart, Director of Development at (508-997-0046 x 115) or email: asmart@whalingmuseum.org.

About the Charles W. Morgan

Charles W. Morgan/Wikipedia

The last surviving whaling ship in America, the Charles W. Morgan, was built in 1841 in New Bedford at the yard of Jethro and Zachariah Hillman. She was one of 75 whaling ships out of New Bedford Harbor that year (New Bedford whaling peaked 16 years later in 1857 with 329 vessels).

About the Beetle Whaleboats

Photograph of whaleboats laid out on the lawn at Beetle"s Boatyard. Photo/New Bedford Whaling Museum.

James Beetle began building whaleboats while working for the Hillmans. From 1834 – 1854 he built over 1,000 whaleboats (or about 50/year), including some for the Charles W. Morgan. James Beetle had 3 sons: Charles and John ran the Beetle shop on Rodney French Boulevard in New Bedford, while James Clarence Beetle moved to San Francisco to expand the business for the West Coast fleet. As the industry began to decline after the Civil War, the Beetle family parlayed their expertise into designing and constructing pleasure craft.

In 1921 the Charles W. Morgan embarked upon her last sail and retired at Colonel Edward H.R. Green’s estate at Round Hill in South Dartmouth. Ironically, it was that same year that John Beetle built the first 12’ Beetle Cat sailboat; still a popular design today and built locally in Wareham. Using cedar and oak, the same materials Beetle whaleboats were composed of, the sailboat quickly caught on as a one design racing fleet at yacht clubs across New England.

During Col. Green’s restoration of the Morgan in 1924, he asked Charles Beetle to build a whaleboat for the ship as his father had done many years before. The last Beetle whaleboat was built by Charles in 1933 for the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia. This whaleboat would become significant later, as its lines and construction plans became part of the Mystic Seaport plan collection in 1973, and is now the one currently being built at the Beetle Shop.

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1 thought on “Beetle Whaleboat to Grace Restored Whaling Ship”

  1. Thanks Tom, for your candid historical account on the Beetle Family’s whaleboat business. I’ve been selling these models on Nantucket and Cape Cod since 1985 and only had some information on this vessel. Your article, in kind, is short and concise relative to the history. Again, many thanks, sir!

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