Mayflower at Plymouth Harbor wharf
There is an empty boat slip on the waterfront in Plymouth, MA. One of our national treasures, the Mayflower II, the full-scale reproduction of the tall ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620, has left.
According to Whit Perry, the director of maritime preservation and operations at Plimoth Plantation, this replica of the original, which was built in Britain and sailed to the US in 1957 as a gift of friendship, needs a massive refit.
The hull is rotting, thanks to beetles having their own Thanksgiving by gorging on the timbers. Half of the ship below the water has to be replaced, and the Mayflower needs major structural frame repair and planking. She has been loved almost to death: an estimated 25 million people have visited the 60 year old ship.
Mayflower being towed through the Cape Cod Canal on her way to the Mystic shipyard
The Mayflower is now in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, where skilled craftsman will do the overhaul over the next 2 ½ years. She should be back in Plymouth in time for the 400th anniversary festivities marking the Pilgrim’s landing in 2020. The cost: $7.5 million, well worth the price to allow generations of visitors to explore above and below decks, learning about the doughty people who came to the New World aboard her.
Mayflower in dry dock
If you want to watch the refit, a live webcam has been set up to provide 24-hour views of the reconstruction. Stop in at http://plimoth.org/mayflowerlive from time to time to watch the work.
In the meantime, there is another project to create a second replica of the Mayflower, the Harwich Mayflower project. A seaworthy replica sister ship is being built in Harwich, England, and will participate in the 400th anniversary celebrations taking place in the US and the UK. Harwich had a large role in British maritime history, building ships in the time of the Spanish Armada and the two World Wars.
The ship, its construction, and its historical interest will serve as a tourist hub for the East of England, drawing visitors from around the world, and apprentice training in shipbuilding and marine engineering will be given during the ship’s build.
In an upcoming post, I will tell you what happened to the original Mayflower.