I stepped into a shop at The Boothbay Harbor Shipyard and came short up against what I took at first for a very large vessel in frame. She was heavily built of double-sawed 6″x6″ frames set close together. The two halves of each frame were held together with locust treenails, wooden pegs, a tip-off that I was looking at a reconstruction of an old-time vessel. David Stimson, general manager, told me it was to be a replica of DISCOVERY, the smallest of the three vessels that brought the first colonists to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. Of course the original vessels have long since rotted away, but replicas have been built of each, based on what was then known of 17th century ship design. The replica of the largest, SUSAN CONSTANT, still floats as an exhibit at a Jamestown wharf. A reconstruction of 74-foot GODSPEED was launched at Rockport, Maine, in March 2006 (WWF April 06). Boothbay Harbor Shipyard expects to launch 48-foot DISCOVERY in September.
A more careful inspection of DISCOVERY under construction and a very pleasant conversation with David Stimson filled in many details. She is to be 48′ 10″ on deck with a beam of about 13 feet, and she will draw about six-and-a-half feet, quite a lot for the shallow James River. She is built to conform to regular Coast Guard standards for vessels her size but will not have to meet the stringent requirements of passenger vessels. Pete Johnson is chief shipwright in charge of her reconstruction. He is an exacting boss in charge of a skillful crew. Joinerwork thus far is hairline.
She is timbered with angelique, a tropical hardwood from Surinam. The 6″x6″ frames are tapered as they go up toward the deck. She will be bronze fastened, planked with wana and decked with silverballi, also tropical hardwoods. 10 tons of lead inside and a 7,000-lb. lead shoe will give her stability.
What will she look like? She will be flush decked with no lofty poop deck or forecastle. She will be rigged as what the 17th century seaman called a “pinnace.” Her main mast will be stepped forward of amidships and will carry two large square sails. The mizzen mast, shorter than the main, will be stepped farther aft and will carry a large lateen sail set on a long, heavy yard. All three spars can be lowered and lashed on deck in heavy weather. The bowsprit exists mainly to support the rig from forward. It will probably carry a jib but no awkward spritsail. She will be steered with a tiller in the style of her times. Actually DISCOVERY will look much like “Maine’s First Ship,” VIRGINIA, of which a reconstruction is planned for 2007. Her model may be seen at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.
Accommodations will be minimal. She will have a head, but no formal galley is planned. Will she have an engine? The answer delivered in a whisper: “two diesels, just in case.”
DISCOVERY is being financed by the state of Virginia with some federal help. She will spend most of her life afloat as an exhibit at a wharf as part of the Jamestown Museum with occasional visits to towns and cities with historical interests.
DISCOVERY’s reconstruction is not the only project at the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard. In another shop, work was pushing ahead on a 36-foot schooner to be used as a daysailing party boat out of Tiverton, Rhode Island. On the day of my visit, there was a steel fishing vessel on the small railway and the restored wooden Banks fisherman Sherman Zwicker on the larger. Two days later, Sherman Zwicker was afloat and the 18th century replica of the ship Bounty was hauled for extensive repairs. And there is a lot of yacht work scheduled. It is an active scene.