I have been aboard the Mayflower II many times over the past forty years at her dock in Plymouth,
Massachusetts, but this past February, climbing down the companionway into her cargo hold,
As her multi-year refit was nearing completion in Mystic, Connecticut, was a different experience.
The smell of fresh linseed oil and pine tar transported me into a different era, and I could once again imagine 102 men,
Women, and children cramped here, doing their best to endure their 66-day crossing from the old world to the new.
A few days earlier, I had met with Quentin Snediker, director of the Henry B.
duPont Preservation Ship yard at Mystic Seaport Museum, where the work has been carried out.
We talked about the monumental undertaking and of the unique opportunity that projects like this provide to pass along centuries-old skills to new generations of craftsmen.
A few days later, I was making my way through the ship with Whit Perry, Mayflower II’s captain.
These two men, together with their teams of professionals and volunteers,
have spent the better part of the past six years overseeing the daunting logistics of breathing new life into this iconic ship.
Although this is obviously Allies in World War II, President Franklin D.
duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport and relaunched in September 2019 with great fanfare, which included a rechristening by Harriet Cross,
British Consul General to New England; keynote speech by bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick; and the leadership of Plimoth Plantation and the Mashpee courtesy mystic seaport museum.
Wampanoag nation. not the original vessel that brought the Pilgrims here 400 years ago, it now has a well-earned history of its own and should not be dismissed as some modern replica or attraction vessel.
Like other recreated historic ships, including those at Jamestown Settlement in Virginia, it serves as a living, breathing time machine.
Built of wood and rigged with iron, bronze, rope, and canvas,
Ships like these are keeping old skills alive and teaching us all about the evolution of seafaring technology upon which much of the progress of our modern world has depended.
Mayflower II was built in Brixham, England, over a 14-month period by master shipbuilder Stuart Upham and his team of Devon craftsmen, and launched in September of 1956.
Its backstory is pretty incredible in its own right. In 1947, as Henry Hornblower was creating Plimoth Plantation,
A place where 20th-century visitors can come face to face with a recreation of the Pilgrims’ early settlement, he also envisioned building a replica of the Mayflower itself.
He hired naval architect William A.
Baker to research and design a credible reproduction of the iconic ship.
Baker had no plans from which to work, but started with the slim description offered by Pilgrim leader William Bradford in his epic account of the settlement, Of Plymouth Plantation.
There had also been some deductive research done by maritime historian R. G.
Marsden in the early 1900s in an attempt to narrow down which of the many ships named Mayflower might have actually carried the Pilgrims in 1620.
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