The Senior Vice President of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Director of Museum Galleries at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut, Christina Connett Brophy, PhD is a lifelong sailor who loves riding the breeze on both water and land.

“I was sailing before I was born,” says Christina. “My parents started the R/V Geronimo maritime research and sailing program for St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island in the early 1970s. My brother and I grew up on Geronimo tagging sharks and turtles with our parents and a changing rotation of high school students, covering the area from Trinidad to Halifax to Europe, but mostly the Bahamas and Caribbean. She was a 54-foot aluminum William Tripp yawl built by Abeking & Rasmussen – an absolutely beautiful boat but a bit tight for ten people at times. We were home schooled most of our childhood and were both well aware of how wonderful and unique our upbringing was.”

“My first real lessons were at Newport Yacht Club on Turnabouts, then later 420s at St. George’s. The first boat that was completely mine was my wonderful Cape Dory Typhoon Papillon, which I had for many years. I sold her to a talented friend who restored her to mint condition. I think Typhoons are one of the greatest boats – fun to sail, easy maintenance, lovely lines, easy to singlehand but great with a pal or two.”

Christina earned her BA (and sailed) at Northwestern University, an MA from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and a PhD from the University of Valencia in Spain. Before signing on at Mystic Seaport Museum, she held similar positions at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts. “It was challenging, intense and wonderful, and I loved the team there,” she recalls. “It really is one of the country’s best museums in a fascinating and diverse town with many important stories, great restaurants, living waterfront, and awesome people. If you have not been, go there.”

“The New Bedford Whaling Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum are long-term close partners, so I knew a lot about Mystic when I was offered a place here. We live in an old captain’s house and are loving the area. I can take my dinghy to work, see kids learning to love sailing at our sailing center, watch extraordinary historic vessels hauled out at our shipyard for repairs and maintenance, work with experts in so many fields, and put on inspiring exhibitions in a variety of interesting architectural spaces from historic to modern. Mostly, I think what drew me here is a desire to help people find their own connections to the sea, which is a major part of Mystic’s current focus.”

Mystic Seaport Museum’s newest exhibit is Story Boats: The Tales They Tell. “One of the Museum’s most important and remarkable assets is the watercraft collection – over 450 smallish watercraft housed in the Rossie Mill across the street,” Christina explains. “When I first arrived, I was taken with how people’s eyes light up when they see the abundance of boats and hear the amazing stories behind them.”

“While many of us love boat design and technology, most folks are more interested in the people behind the boats; their stories of adventure, immigration, survival, speed, world records, etc. Working with Quentin Snediker, our Clark Senior Curator for Watercraft, the Watercraft Committee and staff members, we compiled a list of the top ‘stories’ and narrowed it down to eighteen that would fit in the Collins Gallery in the Thompson Exhibition Building. Krystal Rose, our Curator of Collections, curated the exhibition with accompanying artifacts like a wheelchair that belonged to Franklin D. Roosevelt mounted alongside his knockabout Vireo, which he sailed for the last time the day before polio set in and he could no longer walk. It is a wonderful show.”

“I have loved racing, but the greatest joy to me is the journey itself – to a new port of call or returning to old favorites. Transatlantic on Geronimo at 17 will always be one of my favorite trips, but also seeing the mountains of Haiti appearing in the distance, phosphorescence surrounding dolphins playing off the bow at night, tagging sharks off the long line in the Bahamas, and sitting in my favorite seat as a kid on Geronimo, the boom on the high side of the raised mainsail, reading my precious Tintin comics with total confidence no one was going to tack accidentally and flip me off the windward side!”

“My husband Gary and I have a Dehler 34 named Junkanoo and we love cruising the Vineyard, particularly Menemsha and Edgartown. Hadley, Cuttyhunk and Provincetown are also favorites.”

Christina & Gary recently competed in the 2022 Blokart North American Championships at Ivanpah Dry Lake in California’s Mojave Desert. “It’s an ancient lake bed where you can sail straight for miles. It’s dusty and dry…and crazy fun! Racing speeds range from 25 to 50 mph, and the Blokart speed record is 77.7. Gary and I were introduced to Blokarting by our dear friends Sherri & Dave Lussier. Dave and Gary have been racing multihulls together for years. Our team, New England Land Sailors is led by Dave and includes people age 16 and up – with a median age around 50 – and a range of experiences from iceboating, multihull and monohull racing and blue water sailing to no water sailing experience at all.”

“Blokart is a New Zealand-based (of course!) builder of one-design land yachts that break down into a flat bag you can check onto a plane or throw in the back of your car. Blokarting is great for all ages and skill levels…and mine’s on display in the Story Boats exhibition!” ■

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