George H. Moffett Jr. – Educator and Longtime Captain of the Mystic Seaport Schooner Brilliant

Sad news. George H. Moffett Jr., the captain of the Mystic Seaport Museum schooner Brilliant for 25 years, has died of melanoma at his home in Connecticut. He was 66.

Moffett was from a naval family. His grandfather, Admiral William A. Moffett, was known as the “father of naval aviation.”  George Moffett  studied engineering at  the Naval Academy during the Vietnam War, but questioned the morality of the conflict and transferred out. He would later earn a Master’s in Divinity from the University of Berlin and before moving back to the United States, would become headmaster of a small boarding school on the south coast of England.

From his obituary in the  In 1981, George found a position that allowed him to combine his love of sailing and background in education on the schooner Brilliant at Mystic Seaport. During the 25 years that he served as her captain, he introduced over 3,000 teenagers and adults to sea as part of the museum’s sail-education program. The job turned out to be a perfect match: as a teacher and mentor, he inspired self-discovery and courage by motivating his crew members to challenge themselves, persevere in hardship and never do things halfway. As an engineer, artist, and steward, he maintained the classic vessel to perfection. As a preservationist and communicator, he garnered appreciation for the yacht’s mission and craftsmanship and raised an endowment to make its operations sustainable. As a wanderer and tactician, he took the boat to ever further waters and won races on the New England Coast and to Bermuda. Most notably, he raced Brilliant across the Atlantic from Halifax to Amsterdam in Tall Ships 2000 and won first in class and first overall.

George H. Moffett Jr

George resigned from the Seaport in 2007 to pursue his terrestrial passion for motorcycling and explore the U.S. With friends, he rode a classic BMW motorcycle across country from British Colombia eastward. He was soon lured back to sea, however, by the opportunity to skipper the Fife ketch, Belle Aventure, until his retirement in 2009.

In the months before his death, George was honored to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from Tall Ships America and the William P. Stephens Award from the Mystic Seaport in recognition of an enduring contribution to the history, progress, and appreciation of American yachting.

George was driven by a longing for understanding and knowledge that never left him. He was provoking, persistent, compassionate, witty, and eloquent. He appreciated simple beauty, made a life-long impression on many, and made life more fun for all around him.

In addition to his wife, he is survived his sister, Elizabeth; by his daughter, Jessica and her husband, Thomas.

Donations may be made in his name to the Brilliant program at Mystic Seaport, PO Box 6000, Mystic, CT 06355.

Thanks to Captain Richard Bailey for passing along the sad news.

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5 Responses to George H. Moffett Jr. – Educator and Longtime Captain of the Mystic Seaport Schooner Brilliant

  1. Vicki Claypole Anderson says:

    The George Moffett I knew was a complex man. He was my friend and yet I never knew him completely. There was always another layer. He loved great adventures and yet was fiscally conservative. He was a gifted intellectual and conversationalist. He was also a good listener – and that made him a gentleman. A gentle man. That smile, and sparkle in his eye….always more behind it. He was fun. Though he didn’t tolerate fools or untruths. He’d fight the good fight. He left behind so many who loved him. I’ll look for George among the twinkling stars that Don Treworgy showed us, and miss him for all the years to come.

  2. Vann Fleming says:

    On 1 September 1997 I sailed out of Gloucester, MA aboard Brilliant, George Moffett, Master. Just today I learned of Captain Moffett’s death. Hard to fathom because Captain Moffett is indeed the kind of person who leaves a lifelong impression on those he has met. In just the few days I sailed with Captain Moffett, he became my hero. In my eighth decade it is still hard to understand why our Creator takes such incredible folks away from us so early.

  3. Robin Watt says:

    I just learned of George Moffett’s passing. I had the privilege of being one of his students at that “small boarding school on the south coast of England” from ’77 to ’79, and remember a disciplined, firm, and even handed headmaster whose progressive approach to the position earned him the love and respect of all The Mill School boys, who came from all over the world from all walks of life. My condolences to his family; I hope they take comfort in the knowledge that Mr. Moffett’s quiet influence extended far beyond that little school in Clymping.

  4. Randy Lohr says:

    I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Captain Moffett but being a local resident of Mystic I have always followed the voyages of the Brilliant. As an avid rower I pass her in her berth at the Seaport in the evening. As I go by I have always marveled over the voyages she has undertaken, how well she has done racing and her immaculate condition. She is a hometown girl that represents the Seaport and the Mystic Community so well everywhere she goes. It is a true testimate to Captain Moffett’s skill and expertise that he took such great care of this treasure and introduced so many people to the wonderful activity of sailing. He taught more then just seamanship and skill……he taught life lessons to the people that participated in the Brilliant program. He was taken from us way too soon. God Speed, Captain.

  5. Charles Fisher says:

    Godspeed George, thank you.