Mayflower II Captain's Blog

Life aboard a 17th Century reproduction ship

Oak and Snow in Kentucky

November 18th, 2014 by Plimoth

Hi everyone!

Well, we got the White Oak loaded today during a snow storm here in Kentucky!  All went well and the wood is on its way to the Museum.  We had a videographer and still photographer from the University of Kentucky. They then interviewed Clint Patterson, Terry Conners, and myself afterward at a local coffee shop- so stay tuned for some links to footage and interviews soon!

I’d like to give some collaboration thanks to Arnold Graton Associates, the covered bridge builders who provided the loading and transportation for us.

Now I’m cold, wet and tired.  Will have a hot shower and something good to eat, then bed- but first a few photos!

-Whit Perry

 

 

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Welcome Whit Perry!

August 19th, 2014 by Plimoth
Whit Perry

Whit Perry

Please join us in welcoming Marc Whitney—“Whit”—Perry as the museum’s associate director for maritime preservation and operations! Whit comes to Plimoth Plantation with over 30 years of experience working with wooden boats. His most recent post was at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, where he maintained and operated three square-rigged vessels for nearly 10 years.

Whit has a long history with ships and sailing, having sailed all over the North Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. He has commanded many different types of vessels, from small catboats to square riggers, schooners, and sloops. He will start his new position later this month. Whit originally hails from Massachusetts and is looking forward to being back in New England. “I am very excited to be a part of the Plimoth Plantation team, as we move towards 2020—the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing in Massachusetts,” said Perry. “The restoration of Mayflower II is a dream come true. In the months and years to come we will restore and preserve this iconic ship so that future generations can continue to appreciate its beauty, significance, and history.”

In other Mayflower II news…

On July 11, 2014, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed the 2015 fiscal year budget which includes $2 million in funding for the restoration of Mayflower II. The historic ship is a centerpiece exhibit of Plimoth Plantation and one of the Commonwealth’s leading tourism attractions, drawing millions of people from around the world to learn about the Plymouth Colony and its role in the early Colonial foundation of the United States.

We can’t wait for Whit to get on board, and we are excited to continue our preservation and restoration efforts throughout the upcoming seasons! Stop by, get on board and say hi to Whit!

The painting season is upon us

May 7th, 2014 by Plimoth Plantation

painting

 

Now that the weather has stabilized somewhat, in between repair projects and other matters, we have begun painting the ship.

Mostly we work from staging that hangs over the side. This year we will also have access to a large float from which we can  paint near the waterline.

Why do I bring this up you might ask?

Well, we will be looking for some help this season with this enormous project.

I was going to apply the Tom Sawyer technique in order to attract volunteer painters. You know, “It sure is fun painting this ship. I bet you wish you could help. If you give me a dollar I’ll let you help.” That kind of thing. Truth is we need some help, it is kind of fun, in a “It sure feels good when I stop hitting my head against the wall,” kind of way, and we are just now coming into the very best time of year to hang around the waterfront. (There is both an ice cream shop and a pub right across the street.)

We work Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM. We are happy to have volunteer help. It may be the case, as summer comes along and sunset is later, that we can work later in the day.

I can be reached directly by e-mail at parenstam@plimoth.org if you would like to help. Why not give it a try? The coffee is on us.

 

 

 

Winter Rigging

March 1st, 2014 by Plimoth Plantation

Or  - How I stopped worrying and learned to love the Polar Vortex.

You don’t find many ship rigging text books suggesting a snow blower and shovels  as indispensable items in your tool kit. This year we could not have rigged the ship without them.

Since the time the museum closed in December the marine staff has been dealing with the rigging on the ship in anticipation of a sailing opportunity for early March. The first step was to remove topmasts, all the yards and rigging. That happened in December. The second step was to inspect, overhaul and prepare the rigging in our shop for re-installation. That all happened in January. The third step, of course is to re-rig the ship. That happened during one of the coldest and snowiest Februarys we have had in some time.

Four wheel drive is essential to the modern riggers

Four wheel drive is essential to the modern riggers

Previous blog posts have articulated the rig up process. Add to those rather mundane descriptions: chip ice, shovel snow and salt the pier prior to lifting spars with the truck. Just ahead of the truck the reader can see the patch of dock  we had cleared to give us better traction for lifting.

Rigging worked best when we stayed on the cleared path.

Rigging worked best when we stayed on the cleared path.

Bring the topmast into the exhibit space in preparation for raising. It was interesting watching the ice flows drift past the pier as we worked. One day we saw a peregrine falcon sitting on the ice eating its lunch. It looked like Cold Duck. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture.IMG_0731

Mizzen sail, bent on, and set with lovely light snow falling for atmosphere.

Mizzen sail bent on  and set with a lovely, light snow falling for atmosphere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course rigging the ship is only one part of preparing the ship to get underway. The gun doors need to be bolted and caulked tight as well. Andrew is in the skiff he rebuilt working on that in odd moments around the rigging process.

IMG_0749Oddly, it was snowing that day too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Snowy owl and Mayflower Model

A Snowy Owl and a Mayflower weather vane

This shot was taken on the beach here in Plymouth directly across the harbor from the where Mayflower II is docked. Recently, Birders are talking about the Snow Owl invasion we are experiencing here in coastal New England this winter. These birds  comes to us from the arctic – It is interesting to note how at home they appear to be around here this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Boomkin for Mayflower II

January 24th, 2014 by Plimoth Plantation

What’s a boomkin you say? Well, I will tell you. It is the spar that protrudes off the back of the poop deck and whose primary purpose is to give us a place to attach the sheet block for the mizzen sail. Of course.

 

Take a look at this picture:

Mayflower II under sail, 2007.

Mayflower II under sail, 2007.

As part of our winter maintenance work we removed the boomkin for inspection and refinishing. I should say it was Andrew’s idea to remove the boomkin right off the bat.

When we got the timber back to the shop and gave it a chance to thaw out we discovered a significant bit of rot on the underside of the boomkin. As it lays flat on the poop deck it is clear water has been sitting between the boomkin and the deck and over time rot has developed.

As I mentioned earlier the far end of the boomkin is where the sheet block for the mizzen is attached. Someone has to sit on the boomkin, lay out flat and reach for the fitting to which the block is attached. That someone has often been me. Now seeing the rotten bit on the boomkin it seemed like a good idea to replace the timber. Thank you Andrew for suggesting we tend to this bit of maintenance. The distance to the water from the boomkin is about 30 feet.

The new piece starts with the tree:

Splitting out wood for the new bomkin.

Splitting out wood for the new boomkin.

Andrew has the honor of splitting off a piece of White Oak from the tree we received from Framingham State University. the piece he chose has just he curve the new boomkin will need for it to be as strong as possible.

 

Shaping the new boomkin.

Shaping the new boomkin.

After much labor Andrew has the new piece nearly shaped. Int he foreground of the photo is the plywood template he used to shape the taper into the timber. The boomkin is square at its forward end becoming round at the aft end.

 

 

Winter Work

January 14th, 2014 by Plimoth Plantation
Winter Nor'Easter

Winter Nor’Easter

A big part of our work in the winter is dealing with the weather, whether the ship is on land at a shipyard or in the water in Plymouth Harbor.

Extra lines, fenders placed at touch points and an ever vigilant security staff help keep the ship safe.

Snow drifts in any opening on the ship.

Whose ship this is I think I know…

 

As happens to many of us who spend time outdoors doing stuff, the wind will find the slightest opening in which to drive snow. Mayflower II’s lower deck is not air tight and thus the lovely tableau of a winter scene.

 

 

While the wind howls we hunker indoors

While the wind howls we hunker indoors

Two stalwart volunteers, Rick Ryan and Allen Zubatkin (it means either balleen or teeth in Russian) working on the spars. Because the ship was away so long this year, the rig was not up for very long. It has not weathered badly so prep to re-rig is a little easier this winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perched on the mizzen cross trees

Perched on the mizzen cross trees

Another positive development this winter is the hiring of our the third member of the marine staff. Susannah Clark, a native of Maine, licensed captain, professional sail maker and veteran of a circumnavigation of the globe aboard the Picton Castle (a square rigged ship sailing out of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia) should have some relevant skills to bring to our department.

I am thrilled she is working with us and was just as thrilled she was at the mast head while I stood on deck supervising.

Down – Rigging in Low Temperatures

December 14th, 2013 by Plimoth Plantation

This past week or so we have been removing the upper rigging from the ship. Naturally, the temperatures around here have plunged into the 20′s and with a wind chill in the teens. It might be an over statement to say that we have been enjoying learning what 17th century sailors went through sailing onto the New England coast in late November and early December. At least, when we are done, we can reflect on our experiences from the comfort of the couch in our own centrally heated homes. Perhaps the cold and crowded forecastle offered its own sense of comfort for the long suffering sailors of 1620 after a long day of just trying to survive the weather. Hmm…

On the main cap in the main top.

On the main cap in the main top.

Andrew, Tom Bott and I are just about finished sending down rigging to the crew on the deck in the above shot. The main top mast has been lowered down so that we can reach the rigging that hangs on its top. There were shrouds, backstays, a head stay, a mizzen lift, a flag staff, a flagstaff cap, cross trees, and various fids, eyebolts, and blocks to remove.  Heavy stuff.

Pausing for a chance to stretch my back.

Pausing for a chance to stretch my back.

A view of the ship in its winter plumage.

A view of the ship in its winter plumage.

 

The sharp eyed observer will note John Lebica on the half-deck handling the gantline with which the individual pieces of rigging is lowered. I am sure he is wishing we are still tarring the rigging, not only  because he “likes” tarring but because then the weather would be much warmer.

Rigging on dock, in the capable hands of Dick Beane.

Rigging on dock, in the capable hands of Dick Beane.

The same sharp eyed observer will notice Don Heminitz in the back ground of this shot. He is an interpreter during the season, this year playing the role of the shallop master. irking with us over the winter he is getting a chance to learn in a hands-on way the meaning of all the rigging terms he uses in the course of a season. Have I mentioned it was cold this week?

Thanks to Edye Rogers, our two day a week security person, occasional soap bubble generator and full time swell gal, for taking these pictures.

 

 

 

End of the season, end of the year, ongoing work.

December 11th, 2013 by Plimoth Plantation

The last few months, while I have not posted to this blog, our readers can be assured we have been busy with all kinds of work aboard Mayflower II. The work ranges from the mundane to movie making.

On the more ordinary end of things we spent a week or so taring the rigging. The dedicated reader of this blog will know from previous posts that brushing pine tar onto all the standing rigging is a once or twice annual process for us. Sometimes the cast of characters change but the process has remanded the same for the fifty plus years Mayflower II has been around and of course the sailor’s task of coating the rigging with tar is as old as, well, rigging and pine tar.

John Lebica claims to enjoy tarring.

John Lebica claims to enjoy tarring.

John has been working with us the past few months. While he is an intelligent man and a pleasure to work with I have my suspicions about his professed joy for tarring.

He also likes to paint:

John Lebica painting

John Lebica painting

Other ongoing work that readers of the blog will remember is the beak head project. We are done. Note the staging is gone and also note the beautiful paint job, well at least as far back as the cat head.

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Some of our work has not been on the ship at all. We have been wrestling with the white oak tree donated by Framingham State University earlier this year. A sawyer with a portable mill came and looked at the logs. He said immediately upon getting out of his truck that the logs were too big for his machine to pick up. So we split the logs in half  lengthwise with wedges. It only took a few hours per log.

first section split

first section split

four halves awaiting the bandsaw mill.

four halves awaiting the bandsaw mill.

Finally, lately we have been dressing up the ship for a film shoot. It is always interesting to get a different perspective on a story we know here at Plimoth Plantation so well. Details of the shoot are necessarily shrouded in secrecy.

Lower deck, looking aft.

Lower deck, looking aft.

 

We are currently in the midst of down rigging. While the rig went up so late this year as a result of our belated return to Plymouth, it is best to take it all down again in order to inspect, repair, or replace anything that might prove deficient. In other words, more of the same for now.

Andrew Guest

October 4th, 2013 by Plimoth Plantation

Now that I have tidied up on reporter news from  a month and half ago I can start to catch up on what has been going on since the ship has returned to Plymouth.

Sadly, both Keith and Danny left the employ of the museum a few months ago. Happily, Andrew Guest came aboard recently. (I think he has been here a month or so honestly.)

Here is the most memorable shot of Andrew so far.

oneHe is clinging to the top of the shallop mast re-attaching the flag halyard after climbing up on the mast via the shrouds. I think he may be handy to keep around. More on him and what else has been going on next week.

 

The latest news (from a month and a half ago)

October 4th, 2013 by Plimoth Plantation
How soon we forget. If one were to drive along the waterfront here in Plymouth everything looks just as it should be.  The ship is at the dock, fully rigged, visitors are lining up to get aboard, tourist are wandering around on the waterfront, just another day in the life of Mayflower II. 
But just about six weeks ago this was where one would have to go to see the ship.
Alongside the dock at the shipyard.

Alongside the dock at the shipyard.

The trip home from Fairhaven to Plymouth was marked by fair weather, calm seas and a host of well-wishers lined up along the Cape Cod Canal as we made our transit.

Hurricane gate, New Bedford, MA

Hurricane gate, New Bedford, MA

 

The ship, towed as always by the tugboat Jaguar, slipped easily through the hurricane gate and out into Buzzards Bay early in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

Accompanied by Wareham harbormaster's fireboat

Accompanied by Wareham harbormaster’s fire boat.

Along with the hundreds of people waving to the ship as we passed through the canal, boats like this one escorted Mayflower II  on portions of our trip.

Exiting the East End of the canal

Exiting the East End of the canal.

 

Even after we left the canal there were boats keeping us company as we moved into Cape Cod Bay.

 

 

 

 

That is actually the last shop I have of the trip as the remainder of the time we were busy getting the ship’s arrival at the dock. The plan was to get the ship tied up, cleaned up and opened to the public as quickly as possible. It was a good thing we spent the last part of the trip preparing because when we arrived back in Plymouth there was a tremendous reception of people waiting.

The ship docked at 11:00, if I remember correctly, and we opened to the public at 2:00 pm. Staff, trustees, volunteers and supporters of the ship of all kinds breathed a great sigh when the last line was secured, the gangways attached and the ship returned to her long practiced business of welcoming guests from every corner of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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