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Model of famous whaling ship to be installed in Old Lahaina Courthouse

By Staff | Jun 4, 2021

The Charles W. Morgan is the major exhibit at Misty Seaport Museum in Connecticut. PHOTO BY THISISMYSTIC.COM.

LAHAINA — Bill Moorehead, a frequent visitor to Maui who has been making models since he was eight years old, recently completed a model of a famous whaling ship: the Charles W. Morgan.

The intricate and finely detailed model of the only surviving wooden whaleship from the 1800s American fleet will be installed in the Old Lahaina Courthouse second floor in June.

The display case and water feature were done by Joseph Kaare and James Rogers of Silverdale, WA.

In 1981, Bill and his wife, Janice, came to Hawaii for their tenth anniversary. While in Lahaina, they fell in love with the Carthaginian.

During a 2016 visit to Maui, Bill was taken back to find out that the Carthaginian had been sunk. In 2019, he made a proposal to Lahaina Restoration Foundation to build them a model of a ship that actually made visits to Lahaina during the mid-1800s. The Charles W. Morgan fit that bill.

The model is a replica of the actual working ship that will be used as an educational tool. The model of the CWM is in 1:64 scale or 3/16″ equals one foot. It took Bill about 2,500 hours to build over the last two years.

When asked why he would do such a thing, Bill replied, “The answer is simple. I love the Hawaiian culture, its people and the history of Lahaina. I also wanted to do something for the Lahaina Restoration Foundation and leave a little part of myself here in Lahaina.”

The actual Charles W. Morgan visited Lahaina numerous times over an 80-year whaling career that included 37 voyages, with most lasting three years or more. The crew of 35 was comprised of sailors from all over the world, including many Native Hawaiians. The Charles W. Morgan measures 106 feet, 11 inches length on deck with her beam measuring 27 feet, 9 inches. Fully rigged, she carries 7,134 square feet of sail.

The Charles W. Morgan’s whaling days ended in 1921. She was then restored and is now installed as the major exhibit at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut.

Lahaina is often erroneously called the “Whaling Capital of the Pacific.” While over 500 whaling ships visited Lahaina during the peak of the season in 1849, the ships did not come to hunt whales. They came to reprovision their ships with Maui’s abundant supply of fresh water and copious amounts of fresh fruits, melons, potatoes and vegetables. Local pigs and chickens were also plentiful, and the town provided ample R&R for their crew.

The majority of whaling done by the American fleet, which once numbered more than 2,700 vessels, occurred in the North Pacific.

Bill and Janice will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this June while visiting Maui. Bill is a U.S. Navy veteran who started an electrical company in 1999 and retired in 2015. He enjoys quilting and has completed over 25 quilts in the past five years, including many Hawaiian quilts.

Lahaina Restoration Foundation will host a public reception for Bill and the model of the Charles W. Morgan at the Old Lahaina Courthouse, second floor, on Wednesday, June 9, at 2 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

There is ADA access to the second floor with a ramp in the back of the building and an elevator to the second floor.

The Old Lahaina Courthouse is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes the Lahaina Heritage Museum, Lahaina Visitor Center, Lahaina Arts Society’s Banyan Tree Gallery and two floors of exhibits. Admission is free.

For information, call Lahaina Restoration Foundation at 661-3262 or e-mail theo@lahainarestoration.org.