Two commanding historical organizations are uniting with one goal: Restore Mayflower II in time for the 400th anniversary celebration commemorating the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock.
In 1957 Mayflower II, an exact replica of the ship that brought the pilgrims to America, was sailed from Brixham, England, across the Atlantic to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where it has lived ever since. In five years, the ship is slated to be the centerpiece for the quadricentennial celebration of that historic voyage. The problem is, she’s getting old and needs quite a bit of restoration. But how does a major refit take place on a 236-ton vessel if it needs to be in its home port of Plymouth each summer and the shipwrights doing the work are down the coast a ways?
To solve this dilemma, last fall Plimoth Plantation, the owner of the ship, teamed with Mystic Seaport and came up with a four-phase restoration strategy that is to take place each winter. It began with the winter of 2014-2015. Because Thanksgiving is an important day for Mayflower II and the plantation, each phase will begin immediately afterward, and the ship will be towed south annually to Mystic’s Henry B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard. There, each phase of the work will need to be completed before spring so the ship can return to its dock in Plymouth. The shipwrights will have their work cut out to complete every stage in a short amount of time.
Whit Perry, Plimoth Plantations’s associate director for Maritime Preservation and Operations, says currently only a rough plan is in place for the following years. Phase one, which they are in now, is best described as their Discovery Phase. Once the little ship was on the hard, the team began the demanding task of removing 130 tons of iron and cobblestone ballast from the bilge so both the U.S. Coast Guard and marine surveyor Paul Haley could inspect the vessel. Haley’s detailed report is critical because it will help map the next several phases of the restoration strategy. While plans are being laid out, the shipwrights will keep busy replanking, repairing frames, rebuilding knees and caulking — lots of caulking!
Gradually, without missing the beat of the summer trade, Mayflower II will be restored to its former self.