Selasa, 21 Juli 2020

After more than three years of restoration, the Mayflower II returns to the sea - The Boston Globe

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“This ship is absolutely magnificent,” said Whit Perry, the Mayflower II captain, moments before climbing to the quarterdeck to begin the trip. “This is the culmination of my career.”

A crew of two dozen lined the ship’s rails, waving and exchanging high-fives as the Mayflower II made a slow, majestic procession down the Mystic River. Below them, hundreds of watercraft — from rowboats to kayaks to yachts — formed a floating farewell party all the way to the Sound.

A swivel gun on Mayflower II sounded a salute as it sauntered toward the sea, and a Mystic fireboat sent two celebratory jets of water streaming into the air.

Sarah Clement, stock room manager and rigger. climbs the rigging as the Mayflower II prepared to set out under tow to New London, Conn.
Sarah Clement, stock room manager and rigger. climbs the rigging as the Mayflower II prepared to set out under tow to New London, Conn. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

“It’s unbelievable, almost literally,” said Ellie Donovan, executive director of Plimoth Plantation, the living-history museum in Plymouth that includes Mayflower II.

The Mayflower II, a 106-foot combination of calculation and guesswork modeled on 17th-century merchant ships, is expected to reach Plymouth about Aug. 10. The public is expected to be allowed on board a few days after its arrival, but with pandemic-related safety restrictions.

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The COVID-19 crisis postponed Mayflower II’s departure from Mystic by about three months. A visit that had been planned for Boston in May, including a historic sail with the USS Constitution, was canceled after the pandemic hit.

Perry, director of maritime preservation for Plimoth Plantation, said the health crisis made finishing the project much more difficult than anticipated.

“If there was one positive, though, it gave us more time to dial everything in,” Perry said.

When the wind allows, Mayflower II will drop sail and put the makeover to the test. There is no auxiliary motor on board, just as there wasn’t when the original reproduction sailed from England to Plymouth in 1957, a gift from Britain to the United States for its solidarity and support during World War II.

People line the dock to watch as the Mayflower II leaves Mystic, Conn.
People line the dock to watch as the Mayflower II leaves Mystic, Conn. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

That trans-Atlantic voyage was considered risky: Sailing a 17th-century wooden ship on the high seas did not come with a 20th-century playbook. Now, more than 60 years later, handling this improved and overhauled version still requires an unusual degree of seamanship.

“I’m nervous about the whole thing,” Perry said with a chuckle before climbing onboard.

The shipwrights, blacksmiths, and others who had worked on Mayflower II for more than three years watched from the Mystic Seaport shipyard, mostly in silence, as the vessel’s crew made the final preparations before casting off.

“This is probably what a parent feels like sending their kid off to college,” said Tom Daniels, a shipwright. “There was a lot of head-scratching involved, many hours spent mocking this up, with the final effect being that it all flows and appears perfectly natural.”

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About 70 percent of the original reproduction was replaced. Massachusetts white oak from near the Quabbin Reservoir went for framing. Live oak from the South was shaped into “knees” that support the decks. And 40-foot-long boards cut from the Danish Royal Forest became planking.

A crew member uses a boat hook to pass the line to the tugboat before the Mayflower II set out on its voyage.
A crew member uses a boat hook to pass the line to the tugboat before the Mayflower II set out on its voyage. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

“She was rough, man,” shipwright Christopher Sanders said of Mayflower II’s condition at the beginning of restoration.

Sanders worked on the forward bow of the ship, called the stem. Five new pieces of wood were used in the section, he said. The smallest was 17 feet long and weighed 1,700 pounds.

“Some of the timber that went into this boat was unlike anything I had ever seen,” Sanders said. “It’s bittersweet. It’s hard not to grow attached to a project such as this. She’s a stout little boat.”

Perry, the captain, said the hope is that Mayflower II will keep in good condition for another 60 years. But first there are sea trials, and the ship’s adaptation to wind and water, and a slow journey back to a place where a small group of pioneers fleeing religious persecution established the first permanent English settlement in America.

On Monday, unlike the departure 400 years ago, Mayflower II was a celebrity, not a warhorse trading vessel that sailed through miserable conditions for two months.

The Mayflower II drifts into the fog.
The Mayflower II drifts into the fog. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The Union Jack, the English Cross of St. George, and the United States flag flew from Mayflower II as tugboats carried the ship past packed marinas, under the Mystic drawbridge, and through a parade of boat traffic that turned a leisurely tow into a maritime celebration.

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Donovan, the Plimoth Plantation director, said the challenge of restoring the ship initially seemed overwhelming.

“We asked, ‘Where are we going to raise these millions of dollars?‘” she recalled.

Gazing at the ship’s newly painted lines, Donovan smiled at the meticulous result of that effort: a three-masted, square-rigged product of ancient woodworking skills rendered by 21st-century boatbuilders.

“She,” Donovan said, “is the inspiration.”


Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at brian.macquarrie@globe.com.

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July 21, 2020 at 08:44PM
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After more than three years of restoration, the Mayflower II returns to the sea - The Boston Globe

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