Virginia Particulars

By 2000, Maine’s First Ship decided on a two stage design process.  The first stage was to produce a purely historic concept design.  Navel architect Fred Walker of Kent UK was selected in 2001 to translate Bev Bevilaqua’s concept drawings into a concrete design for the historical Virginia with particulars of size and weight.  The design would show two riggings, a coastal rigging common to a pinnace, and an ocean rigging which would be used in the open ocean. A first design was delivered in 2001 and this is the second design from 2002.

Fred Walker’s work is well known in the UK and has included overseeing the rebuild of Capt. James Cook’s 1768 Endeavour and designing the replica of the 19th century Irish immigration ship Jeannie Johnson.

Virginia was described as a “pretty pynnace of 30 tuns”. The term pinnace is used for a variety of vessels but they are generally narrow with a single deck. The Walker design is slightly wider than most pinnaces, but this would have increased its capacity at the expense of some speed. Pinnaces were used to accompany larger ships and in coastal areas. Pinnaces were used successfully for privateering due to their speed and maneuverability. When Virginia sailed to Jamestown, we know it carried “16 proper men” but not a lot of cargo. Virginia was itself the cargo as a coastal vessel to expolore the James River and the Chesepeake.

A question much discussed was what tradeoffs the shipwright “Digby of London” made based on the use of the pinnace in the colony. The pinnace would be part of the defenses against the French, but also used for fishing and exploring the coast looking for valuable commodities.

The coastal rigging would not include the mizzen and top and might not have a bowsprit. Walker’s design showed the bowsprit in both riggings. The low bulwarks midship allows the ship to be rowed as well as sailed.