Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Touring Mayflower II in Drydock

The Mayflower II undergoing repairs at the
Fairhaven, Massachusetts shipyard
Every winter the Mayflower II is towed from her usual berth in Plymouth Harbor to its winter quarters in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.  She is inspected every winter by the Coast Guard.  This year the annual inspection including looking under the copper sheathing.  This was installed when the ship was built in England in 1957, to protect against ice damage.  Over the years fresh water (rain and weather) had gotten behind the copper sheathing and caused extensive rot and damage to the planking and beams.

Instead of just patching up the ship, it was decided the time was ripe for a extensive emergency renovation to take place over the winter.  Usually wooden ships built around 1620 would have a life of about 20 or 25 years. In 1957 the Mayflower II was built as close as possible to what a ship of this era would have been originally designed.  Now she is over 55 years old, and this extensive repair work is not unusual at all to keep her seaworthy.   Even the USS Constitution, which now over 200 years old, has had about 90% of the original parts replaced.  Captain Peter Arenstam of the Mayflower II estimates that about 70% of his ship is still original to 1957.

A craftsman uses his shoulder to guide in a new section of a rib on the side
of the Mayflower II.  The hand craftsmanship of the repairs reminded me
of what the original shipbuilders must have been doing in the early 17th century.
Since this extensive repair work was not scheduled, or previously funded, the Plimoth Plantation museum is scrambling to find the proper types of materials and donations to finish this project.  Usually the ship is back in Plymouth Harbor every year during March, but it is now unknown exactly when the Mayflower II will return.  They are hoping for May, or at least June to have her back in the water, fully rigged and ready for the summer tourists.

Captain Arenstam leads the tour of the Mayflower II in drydock
A special tour of the Mayflower II was arranged for 29 May 2013 for members of the Plimoth Plantation museum, and limited to only a dozen lucky guests.  It was led by museum staff and Captain Arenstam and his crew.  Not only did we see the marine workshop at the museum, but we got to see the Mayflower II in drydock at the Fairhaven shipyard.  The Captain and staff carefully outlined the ship repairs, plans for the future, and the repair process going on in Fairhaven. 

A special member of the tour was Joseph Meany, who was the original cabin boy on the
Mayflower II's voyage from England to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1957.
Can you find him in the photo to the left?*
The Mayflower II is a symbolic image for all Americans and history buffs.  It doesn’t matter whether your ancestors arrived on the original Mayflower or on some other ship, or even by plane or train.  The idea of traveling a long distance from some distant land to a new home in North America is symbolized by this little ship.  She is beloved by Plymouth residents, school children from all over New England, tourists and travelers from all over the world.   I wish the Mayflower II well and hope to see her back in Plymouth as soon as possible.

Vincent and Captain Peter Arenstam of the Mayflower II
In 2020 the Plimoth Plantation, town of Plymouth, state of Massachusetts, the General Society of Mayflower  Descendants, the Wampanoag Nation and a plethora of other organizations and groups will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the voyage the original Mayflower took in 1620, bringing the first permanent settlers to Plymouth.  Having the Mayflower II ship shape by 2020 is a major goal for everyone!

To donate to the repair of the Mayflower II please see this webpage:

The search is on for very, very large white oak trees to supply the planking and beams for the Mayflower II repairs.  Do you know any large white oak trees?  Read this post:

*Joe Meany is the young man sitting on the deck of the Mayflower II with the "cape" on his shoulders. (Second to the right, seated in the front row)  He had his graduation ceremony on board the Mayflower II at sea on June 2, 1957, perrformed by the crew.  You can read about that here:


Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for telling us who Joe Meany was. I was guessing one of the cross-legged young men, but I focused on the one right to Meany's left.

    I saw your other post about looking for long white oak beams for the Mayflower II. I put it on Facebook and "liked" it. I'll bet people will contribute to this worthy cause--everyone loves the Mayflower--and I hope it is soon.