From across the Mystic River in Connecticut, the Mayflower II can be seen afloat after a re-launch ceremony. (AP)

From across the Mystic River in Connecticut, the Mayflower II can be seen afloat after a re-launch ceremony. (AP)

Chip Sowalski fires a cannon to salute the re-launch of the Mayflower II at the Mystic, Connecticut, Seaport Museum’s H.B. duPont Preservation Shipyard. (AP)

Chip Sowalski fires a cannon to salute the re-launch of the Mayflower II at the Mystic, Connecticut, Seaport Museum’s H.B. duPont Preservation Shipyard. (AP)

A crowd waits to watch the Mayflower II slide from dry dock into the river. (AP)

A crowd waits to watch the Mayflower II slide from dry dock into the river. (AP)

Shipwright Greg See fits a deck plank for the main deck of the Mayflower II at the H.B. duPont Preservation Shipyard. (AP)

Shipwright Greg See fits a deck plank for the main deck of the Mayflower II at the H.B. duPont Preservation Shipyard. (AP)

The Mayflower II is christened with water from all 50 states, England, and the Netherlands during a re-launch ceremony. (AP)

The Mayflower II is christened with water from all 50 states, England, and the Netherlands during a re-launch ceremony. (AP)

Mayflower II Sails Again

Posted: November 1, 2019

Ker-SPLASH! Mayflower II has slipped back into the ocean after three years of fixing up. The ship matches the original Mayflower board for board, bolt for bolt, and rope for rope. But it will make an even bigger splash in 2020.

The replica will sail just as it did in 1620. It will make an ocean voyage from Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Crowds at Plimoth Plantation will give it a big welcome. They will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival in America.

The original Mayflower had a sad ending. It returned to England from Plymouth Colony on May 9, 1621. A man named Christopher Jones was a part owner of the ship. He sailed it to France in October and returned with a load of goods. But he died a year later. A record of the ship showed that it was in ruins. It most likely was sold as scrap.

The story of Mayflower II is much happier. Building it was the idea of British Army officer and journalist Warwick Charlton. A full-scale reproduction of the Pilgrims’ ship was built in Brixham, England, as a gift to the people of the United States from the people of England. The gift was “to honor the bonds of friendship formed during World War II.” It arrived in America on June 13, 1957.

But sixty years of New England’s wind and salt water took a toll on Mayflower II. “We have issues all over the ship,” said Whit Perry at Plimoth Plantation. Beetles were chomping away on the hull. The “knees” (hull braces made from curved limbs of live oak trees) needed replacing. Nearly three-fourths of the ship’s wood was changed out. Three new masts were built. The ship was repainted. Much of the work was done exactly as it had been done on the earlier Mayflower II—with hand tools.

This Mayflower II will be the centerpiece of a 2020 remembrance of the stormy voyage the Pilgrims took to Plymouth 400 years ago. Don Heminitz was one of the 75 people who worked on this ship. “It is not just another boat in the water, ” he says. “There’s a really big story to it.”