Finding the Mayflower II as she sat in dry dock at the Fairhaven Shipyard was pretty easy—I just had to look for the old-fashioned crows nests jutting above the houses and buildings of the port. Inside the yard, I found the celebrated replica ship resting on wooden blocks, with much of her topside planking stripped away and her great oak ribs exposed. At the stern, 2 workers were pounding away with mallets, hammering a new frame section in place.
“This thing is a mess!” was my initial reaction, but Peter Arenstam, the longtime captain of the Mayflower II, soon put me at ease. The ship, he assured me, would be back in Plymouth Harbor for the start of the 2013 season.
Arenstam is a hands-on kind of guy—not a figurehead captain in the least. He’s an expert in wooden-boat construction and restoration, and works right alongside his crew in attending to Mayflower II’s regular and perpetual maintenance.
When I expressed shock at the amount of work taking place, Arenstam reminded me that any half-century-old wooden vessel—or wooden anything for that matter—was bound to experience similar issues, and pointed out that ships of the original Mayflower’s era had an average lifespan of just 20 years. In this case, the issues involve some rotted planks and frames, as well as some damaged “hanging knees” and a section of the beakshead. At the same time, a brand-new generator had been installed, and the ship would be given its traditional new coat of paint prior to her relaunch in late spring.
The culprit behind the rotted frames and planks turned out to be a band of copper sheathing along the waterline that was installed in the 1960s to protect the ship from ice damage. Moisture had found its way behind the copper and eventually led to deterioration of the underlying wood. Now that Plymouth Harbor remains unfrozen much of the winter, the copper was being removed entirely from the vessel.
As you can see in the accompanying video, shot over a 2-week period in April 2013, Arenstam and his crew have their work cut out for them. However, the repairs are proceeding well, and there’s every reason to expect that the vessel will be ready to resume her place as the biggest attraction on the Plymouth waterfront.
We’ll keep you posted on developments. In the meantime, you can follow the repair work in progress by CLICKING HERE on Peter Arenstam’s Captain’s Blog.
To learn more about the Mayflower II and Plimoth Plantation, CLICK HERE.
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