Sea-Fever blog


It’s Moby-Dick Marathon Time! by Peter A. Mello

You really should try to make the Moby-Dick Marathon which begins shortly at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. It’s a great and unique experience in one of America’s most historic downtown districts. The event starts at noon and runs all through the night until about midday tomorrow. The majority of the reading takes place in the museum but this afternoon the crowd ambles across the street to the historic Seamen’s Bethel which is always a highlight. Get there early because the pews are as full as an Easter Sunday service!

In case you can’t make it, the museum has set up a live stream so you can experience it from the comfort of your own berth. Enjoy!



New Bedford Whaling Museum’s 15th Moby-Dick Marathon by Peter A. Mello

Some might think that reading Moby-Dick is like running a marathon. Well, this weekend reading Moby-Dick actually is a marathon event at the New Bedford Whaling Museum which is hosting it’s 15th year celebrating Melville’s American classic.

Moby-Dick Marathon poster

Beth Perdue wrote a great article in today’s Coastin’ section of the New Bedford Standard Times about what you can expect which includes the below highlights so that you can chart your experience. Standing Watch – A marathon timeline (times are approximate)

Chapter 1-6, Noon, Saturday

These first few chapters are entertaining for several reasons, including the comical treatment Melville gives to the relationship of Ishmael and Queequeg and the rare and intriguing look at the city of New Bedford as seen through Melville’s 19th-century eyes. And, this year, the Whaling Museum returns the reading’s kickoff to the Lagoda, its 89-foot, half-scale whaleship replica, adding a new layer of atmosphere to the reading.

Chapter 7-9: Seamen’s Bethel and Father Mapple sermon, 1:20 p.m.

Being in the Bethel, the inspiration for this scene, is reason enough to make the trip up Johnny Cake Hill to hear the famous sermon by Father Mapple. The sermon, full of fire and brimstone and delivered with passion for the past few years by Rev. Dr. Edward R. Dufresne, is another great reason. If that’s not enough, the hymn (from the 1956 film) that kicks off the sermon will be sung by Joanna McQuillan Weeks, local choir singer and secretary of the Ladies’ Branch of the New Bedford Port Society.

Chapter 32: “Cetology,” 6:20 p.m.

This look at the scientific classification of whales is a “love it or hate it” kind of chapter with many votes landing in the latter category. In reality, Melville scholar Dr. Laurie Robertson-Lorant said, for those willing to dive in, the chapter can be very funny. “It’s hilarious because what’s he doing is deconstructing scientific classification,” said Robertson-Lorant. “He’s poking fun at this idea that now we have everything nailed down because we can make a chart.”

Chapter 40: “Midnight Forecastle” 7:45 p.m.

Written in theatrical style, this is an annual favorite among marathoners and this year promises to be extra special with the debut of Culture*Park, the New Bedford theater ensemble, to the mix. About 10 actors will perform the section which shows the ship’s watch, made up of representatives from many countries and cultures, eyeing a coming storm.

Chapter 69: “The Funeral,” 1:30 a.m. Sunday

Melville isn’t pulling punches with this powerful look at the 19th-century industry’s brutal treatment of whales. A key image here is the floating white mass of the whale’s corpse, according to “Moby-Dick” scholar and literature professor Robert Wallace, who called it one of the strongest ecological images in 19th-century literature.

Chapter 78: “Cistern and Buckets,” 3 a.m.

A short comic chapter showing Tashtego falling into a gutted whale carcass and then into the sea, only to be rescued by Queequeg. “It has what Melville calls ‘unspeakable horror’ as well as redemption and wry humor,” said Melville expert Mary K. Bercaw Edwards.

Chapter 81: “The Pequod Meets the Virgin,” 3:30 a.m.

A good example of the fun Melville managed to work into his tragedy, this chapter combines high nationalistic comedy — spoofing the futility of the German whalers — with deep Shakespearean tragedy — in the Pequod’s unnecessary cruelty to the old, blind, wounded bull whale, according to Wallace.

Chapter 87: “The Grand Armada,” 5 a.m.

In this chapter, the whaleboat enters a circle of mother whales and calves. Scholars say for all the novel’s focus on Ahab’s obsession, the whale is the book’s central figure and this chapter is its spiritual center. “Ishmael’s vision of the baby whale in the heart of the carnage “» is the spiritual touchstone for the entire book,” said Wallace.

Chapter 93: “The Castaway,” 6:10 a.m.

The beauty of Melville’s language, noted again and again in conversations about “Moby-Dick” is especially evident in this chapter about Pip going overboard and being dragged down into the depths of the sea, according to Robertson-Lorant.

Chapter 99: “The Doubloon,” 7 a.m.

A dramatic reading where Ahab nails a doubloon to the mast and each of the whaler’s crew members interprets its meaning, each according to their subjective view point, said Robertson-Lorant.

Chapter 110: “Queequeg in His Coffin,” 9 a.m.

“The fact that Queequeg cannot interpret the tattooing on his own chest even though his own heart beats against it is a lesson for us all,” said Wallace. “The dialogue between him and Pip in this chapter is unbearably poignant.”

Chapters 133-135: “The Chase,” 11:45 a.m.

The novel ends with an action-packed bang in these final chapters when Moby-Dick appears and the whalers begin their chase in earnest. “They’re chasing Moby-Dick, knowing that they’re doomed,” said Robertson-Lorant. “The language is so dramatic. The description of fear is the best there is.”

Want to experience things like Melville did as he prepared for his journey on the whaleship Acushnet, cross the street and step into the Seamen’s Bethel (aka Whalemen’s Chapel) where Father Mapple’s sermon will be delivered. Here’s a taste:

I’m proud to be a member of the Board of Managers of the New Bedford Port Society which is the organization that owns and manages the Bethel and the historic Mariner’s Home next door.  We are currently underway on a major restoration and preservation project and if you are interested in learning more and/or supporting this effort, please email me.  If you need or know someone who needs a new website or some digital marketing help, Sea-Fever Consulting’s digitsimple program will donate 25% of all revenues generated from new projects from now until the end of February 2011 that use the code SEAMENSBETHEL. More about our Good Neighbor Program can be found at digitsimple.

Back to the marathon.

  • The majority of the event will take place in the beautiful, newly renovated Bourne Building, the homeport of the Lagoda, the largest ship model in the world.
  • Can’t sail over to New Bedford for this happening? You can still experience it via the web. The Whaling Museum say they will be live-streaming the event via their website.
  • It’s doubtful that this event will conjure up the appearance of another white whale, but you can follow the event on Twitter via the hashtag #mdm15.
  • Think you know a lot about Moby-Dick? There’s a fun sounding Stump the Scholar’s quiz game with Melville Society experts matching wits. The free public program is patterned after National Public Radio’s popular show, “Wait, wait, don’t tell me.” No questions will be deemed too tough and prizes will be awarded. (10:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2011 in the Whaling Museum’s Cook Memorial Theater.

It sound’s like a whale of a weekend! Sea you there!



Moby-Monday: Herman Melville’s Pew by Peter A. Mello

Herman Melville's Pew by kodachromeslides on Flickr

Ever go somewhere and “feel” that you are really experiencing history. Well, the historic Seamen’s Bethel in New Bedford, Massachusetts is one of those special places. If you haven’t been there, make a plan to and when you do make sure you sit in Herman Melville’s pew. Who knows. maybe some of his inspiration will rub off on you.

I’m a member of the board of managers of the New Bedford Port Society and we own and operate the Seamen’s Bethel and I recently wrote Please Help Me Help the Seamen’s Bethel.

If you live anywhere in the area, I invite you to join me for a very special fundraising evening with Dylan Bustin and the Rum-Soaked Crooks on Thursday, October 21st in the historic Seamen’s Bethel.  You can buy tickets at http://bit.ly/bethelconcerts and 100% of the proceeds go to Seamen’s Bethel Restoration Project Fund.

We are well underway with the work to make sure that future generations will be able to experience history at the Bethel and Mariner Home too. Hope you can join us and support the effort too!

Photo credit: Herman Melville’s Pew by Patrick Mont (kodachromeslides on Flickr.com)


Please Help Me Help the Seamen’s Bethel by Peter A. Mello

New Bedford Port Society's Seamen's Bethel and Mariner Home

I’m on the board of managers of one of the most amazing maritime nonprofit organizations anywhere. It’s called the New Bedford Port Society and this paragraph from our website explains how we got started:

In the  late 1820′s, when New Bedford’s whaling industry was at its peak , several of the city’s leading citizens gave their deep consideration to the “character building” of nearly five thousand seamen employed out of this port.  On June 2, 1830 they organized under the title of the New Bedford Port Society, for the moral improvement of seamen and later became incorporated under the following act: An Act To Incorporate The New Bedford Port Society For The Moral Improvement Of Seamen.

One result of successfully discharging our mission for 130 years is that now we own two of the oldest and most important historic buildings in New Bedford, Massachusetts: the Seamen’s Bethel and the Mariners Home. In fact, from a maritime history/heritage perspective, it could be argued that we have two of the most important buildings anywhere.

Beautiful historic buildings like ours require constant TLC and this can be is extremely expensive.  We are currently underway with major restoration/preservation projects on both the Mariners’ Home and the Seamen’s Bethel and a result of this we have begun planning a major capital campaign so that future generations will be able to experience these historic treasures.

We recently announced a series of events called The Concert Series for the Seamen’s Bethel Restoration Project (simple, unambiguous name) and from which all of the proceeds will go to a special fund designated for Bethel repairs. The first concert is Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 7 pm and it will feature the storytelling and singing of Dillon Bustin and the Rum-Soaked Crooks. It’s sure to be a great time for a great cause.

I hope that you will join us but if you can’t, I still invite you to participate in supporting one of America’s most important maritime treasures. If the concert doesn’t fit your schedule or is too far away, please consider purchasing a ticket and donating it back to the Port Society so that we can sell it again. It’s a powerful way to leverage your gift.

If you want to contribute funds, products, services or ideas, please don’t hesitate to email me or leave a comment below.  Every little bit makes a real difference.

Thanks for putting up with this plug for a nonprofit that is very important to me and hopefully to many other Sea-Fever readers.

Register for The Concert Series for the Seamen's Bethel Restoration Project in New Bedford, MA  on Eventbrite



Don’t miss New Bedford’s Working Waterfront Festival this weekend! by Peter A. Mello

New Bedford Working Waterfront FestivalIf you are anywhere near the Southcoast of Massachusetts, or more specifically New Bedford, you will not want to miss the 2009 Working Waterfront Festival. This year’s theme is Surf & Turf: Fishermen and Farmers Finding Common Ground. From the website:

Farming, like fishing, is a way of life. Fishermen and farmers share a deep knowledge of, reverence for and dependence upon the natural world. Both groups pass traditional skills and knowledge from one generation to the next, often incorporating new technologies alongside traditional practices. And both communities face many of the same economic, environmental and political challenges.

There are all kinds of wonderful activities for the entire family that will entertain and educate you about what takes place everyday on one America’s most active waterfronts. Here are the schedules for Saturday and Sunday as well as a downloadable festival map(PDF). It’s all FREE!

Here are a few videos from past festivals of the types of activities that you’ll experience:

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRWNF3N7xc0]
YouTube – Scallop Shucking

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nEzW39fC_I]
YouTube – Coast Guard Rescue Demonstration

In addition to all of the activities on the waterfront, New Bedford is like a theme park for maritime heritage/culture fans. Located on Johnny Cake Hill is the Whaling Museum (website / blog / twitter), homeport of the largest ship model in the world and which has two “not to miss” exhibits: From Pursuit to Preservation and Working Waterfront, Photographic Portraits which I’m proud to say is a great show of my cousin Phil’s photography. Across the street from the Whaling Museum is the historic Seamen’s Bethel made famous by Herman Melville in his classic Moby-Dick. A little further up the hill you’ll find the new Ocean Explorium which is the home to one of NOAA’s very impressive Science on a Sphere installations. All of this and more is located in the New Bedford Whaling Historical National Park.

Looking for some great food and refreshments? Check out the Rose Alley Ale House for great chicken wings, burgers and a wide selection of beers and No Problemo for the best Mexican around.  Want something a little fancier, Cork or Waterfront Grill would be god choices. All are steps from the festival grounds. 

If you are on Twitter and interested in learning more or if you attend and want to share your experiences use the hash tag #workingwaterfront.



Preserving Maritime Heritage: The Port Society Website by Peter A. Mello

Sea-Fever Consulting LLC recently launched a new unit called seaz media which focuses on helping maritime and nonprofit organizations use social media to advance their missions.

One of our first projects was to create a web presence for the New Bedford Port Society, a small nonprofit organization that has been serving mariners and the local community continuously for nearly 180 years.  The Port Society owns and maintains two of the most significant buildings in our nation’s rich maritime heritage: The Seamen’s Bethel and The Mariner’s Home.

To learn more about this project, check out the seaz me blog and visit the Port Society website.

NBPS frontpage 2

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New Bedford Port Society – Helping Mariners and Preserving Our History by Peter A. Mello

In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman’s Chapel, and few are the moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific, who fail to make a Sunday visit to the spot.” – Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville 1851

Phil-looking-presidentialYesterday my cousin Phil was elected president of the New Bedford Port Society at the Annual General Meeting. He’s a good guy who will bring some new energy to this 179 year old organization. I was also accepted as a member and look forward to helping any way I can.

The New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park website:

During the years 1828 – 1829 when the whaling industry of New Bedford was at its height, a number of the city’s leading citizens gave their deep consideration to the “character building” of nearly five thousand seamen employed out of this port. Accordingly, on June 2, 1830 they organized under the title of the New Bedford Port Society, for the moral improvement of seamen and later became incorporated under the following act: An Act To Incorporate The New Bedford Port Society For The Moral Improvement Of Seamen.

Across the street from the great New Bedford Whaling Museum, the New Bedford Port Society is responsible for 2 very important historic buildings located in the heart of the National Park: Seamen’s Bethel and The Mariner’s Home.

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