Status of Virginia 2021
Winter comes again to the shipyard. This will be the final winter for the freight shed which must be taken down to move Virginia to be launched. All around the site, the MFS elves are busy with projects large and small.
In the boatshed, Virginia has a second coat of bottom paint. In the bow, the hawseholes were expanded to allow for a lining, and the bow pinrails are started. In the stern, a set of horizontal knees is being added to the transom. The keel has been trimmed in order to position the rudder.
Below deck, the engine now has oil, and the plumbing has been started including two through holes in the hull for engine cooling intake and bilge pumps. In the hold and crew area, the floor (or sole) is now in place. Work has started in making the bulkheads watertight.
In the freight shed, the riggers have stowed the spars for the winter, but continue to work building specialized rigging pieces. The model of Virginia is being rennovated over the winter. The goals are to make it more portable, clean it, and make the rigging match the rigging of Virginia. This will include giving the sails a tanbark color.
The calendar reminds us that the June 4 2022 launch date continues to creep closer. After a pair of nor’easters hit us at the end of October, we are preparing the boat shed for its last winter. The wood stove is in and the roof is patched. It kept mostly dry during the second storm.
Maine’s First Ship has hired Kirstie Truluck as executive director starting December 1, 2021. As we move from the construction phase to the operational phase of the project, our educational focus becomes even more important.
After many weeks of prep work to patch and sand Virginia’s bottom, the painting has begun. No longer the wood color of the oak planking we are used to, but rather the dull gray of bottom paint.
We held a class on safety, handling, and firing one of Virginia’s guns, and fired it out in the boatyard.
Sunday November 7th was Women’s Shipbuilding Day. The crew worked to fit the floor below deck on Virginia.
Jim Nelson fires one of Virginia’s guns during a safety and handling class
As fall returns to Maine and the leaves begin to turn color, there is steady progress inside both the freight shed and the boat shed.
The rigging gang has only until the middle of November to work on the spars in the freight shed as the Bath Farmers Market will be moving inside in late November. The lateen sail is now installed (bent) on its spar as the gang continues to make specialized items of rigging. The main sprit sail is out on the floor of the freight shed. The main sprit spar is very large, and so is the sail.
In the boat shed the windlass is back in one piece and now properly supported to carry a large weight. The pawl (ratchet) is working so we can demonstrate the working windlass to visitors. The four major pinrails are being built and they have been cut to the final size. Below deck a floor (or sole) is being added to the hold and crew compartments.
The work of sanding the bottom of Virginia is progressing, and we are looking to start the painting.
Our naval architect David Wyman discussed final designs for the wharf and hatches, and our shipwright Rob Stevens has been doing final designs for the hatches.
The propeller and drive shaft have arrived. The drive shaft is installed but the propeller is in storage for now.
Outside the Bath Freight Shed, sidewalks are being added along Commercial Street. Old railroad tracks were removed as part of this effort. This project includes placing 88 engraved brick from doners to the Bath Freight Shed Alliance, which merged into Maine’s First Ship four years ago.
Part of the plastic roof of the boat shed was damaged in a windstorm and for now you can see Bath City Hall from the deck of Virginia. This will need to be fixed, but the building only has another 7 months to go.
Things are progressing in the boat shed, but sometimes we need to so some rework. Building Virginia is experimental archaeology, and we need to relearn many of the skills of the 17th century ships carpenters.
The last piece of the rail at the port bow is now in place. This was delayed to allow the windlass and engine to be lifted from the floor at this location. The bow sections of the bulwarks are still not complete as there have been problems bending pine. The likely solution is the use oak for the bow bulwarks. We have also been redoing the support for the windlass.
At Virginia’s stern, the rudder hatch was a bit too small, so we have pulled up the deck planking in that area to make it a bit bigger. The spacers for the engine are now in place so we can continue work on the engine.
Out in the boatyard the wharf platfrom now has a ramp, and the rigging crew is adding another coat of tar to the standing rigging. Inside the freight shed the rigging crew has been making specialized pieces of rigging, and installing them on the main sprit and lanteen spars.
The first of Virginia’s two cannons was delivered from Campbell Cannon and Carriage Works. It is now on display in the Visitor Center.
The work on Virginia has slowed a bit as a number of the volunteers have boats of their own to sail in this fine weather. Work is on schedule to make the June 4, 2022 launch.
While the engine is in place, works has halted on it for a bit as seen need to create some spacers to correctly align the engine with the propeller shaft. The junction between wood and metal is never an easy one. This of course is a problem they did not have in the 17th century.
In the boat yard, stairs have been added to the wharf platform, and a ramp will soon be added.
In the freight shed, the rigging gang is making some final hardware, including some spar bits. The standing rigging is being added to the main sprit spar.
We have had a lot of visitors to Maine’s First Ship from all over the US. There are still not a lot of international visitors.
Covid-19 has reared its ugly head again and we once again require masks in the freight shed and boat shed.
As full summer arrives, the Jane Stevens Visitor Center is once more full of visitors from all over coming to see the progress on Virginia. We hear a lot of comments like: “you have made a lot of progress in the last two years”. The normal response is that “next year as this time she will be in the Kennebec River at her own wharf”.
The windlass, which was built in the boat yard over the winter, is now installed in the bow of Virginia. Another hackmatak root was cut for knees for the windlass support. Below deck, the shoe to hold the main mast was installed on the keelson.
In a surreal mixture of technology, the 21st century Volvo Penta engine was lifted onto Virginia’s 17th century style deck, using block and tackle rigging and a lot of human labor which looked right out of the 19th century. The engine is now in place in its compartment. Now that the engine is onboard, we can now complete the bulwarks on the port side.
The shallop Jane Stevens is back out on the river, but is planning a couple of road trips in August including a trip to Mystic Connecticut.
The online exhibit: Art of the Virginia is now available on the Events page. Choose Events from the menu or go directly to mfship.org/events . The events page can also be used to register for lectures, or to see the recordings of past lectures.
Summer has come and there are activities all around the freight shed. The Jane Stevens Visitor Center is open 5 days a week (Wed-Sun) 10-2. As almost everybody working on Virginia has been vaccinated, there are few masks to be seen. The small work crews from the Covid era continue as this worked well. There are volunteers working on Virginia most days of the week.
There is work being done below deck which is hard to see. The sole (floor) was put down in the hold. The shoe holding the main mast was installed. Work continues in the engine compartment with the powder coating of the supports done, and the fuel tanks installed.
The planking has been cleaned off following the final calking, the windlass is being installed, and work has started on contructing the hatch covers.
The rigging crew is working both inside the freight shed and in the boat yard adding a weatherproof coating to the spars and masts.
In the freight shed, we are preparing to host the 2021 lecture series which begins June 24. For details and to register see mfship.org/events . Both inside the freight shed and in the boat yard, work is being done to coat the spars and add cleats and other hardware.
In the boat yard, the work to construct the four floats for the wharf is going quickly. It turns out it is a lot faster to work on things which are square and do not require the wood to be bent. By the end of May all five floats are complete.
In the boatshed, the final caulking of the planking is done. We had to move the viewing platform at the stern of the ship to be able to caulk the transom, and move and fix the railing on the port quarter to allow visitors access to the deck. Virginia now fills up the boatshed so it is hard to get a picture of the whole ship. The work to install the windlass is going on both below and above the deck. Below deck work continues in the engine room.
In the freight shed, we opened up the Visitor Center on May 15 and then expanded the hours to five days a week starting Memorial Day weekend.
Virginia’s last plank was bolted in place on April 15. The last two planks were delayed when we ran out of oak and further delayed by Covid-19. We now need to finish the caulking of these new planks. We planned to live stream the work on the last plank, but 21st century technology eluded our ship building crewe.
Caulking the deck is complete and the mizzen channels are being installed. Work continues below deck. Another layer of joint compound is being added to the gaps in the planking.
In the freight shed the Framers Market has moved outside, so the rigging crew has room to work again. The spars which wintered outside will be moved inside so they can be coated and have rigging installed. The Jane Stevens Visitor Center is mostly back in its summer configuration. We hope to open up with normal hours starting Memorial Day weekend, but we still do not know what the Covid-19 restrictions will be.
In the boat yard, we received the floats, lumber, and hardware to build the floats for the wharf. The crewe started the work to construct the floats. They found it a bit strange to work with something which is square, plumb, and level, but no doubt they will adjust to this.
Spring has come again to the shipyard. More of our volunteers have been vaccinated for Covid-19 and there are more volunteers working on Virginia. The two missing planks which were delayed when we ran out of oak are now in place. When this last plank on the port bottom is bolted in, the planking will be complete.
Inside the boat shed work continues caulking the deck. All the normal areas are done, and we are working on the edges. The channels for the mainmast are in place on the port and starboard beams. The bulwarks on the starboard beam are clamped in place, leaving only the port beam to complete. Soon we will be thinking of painting the bulwarks.
Below decks, the fuel tanks for the engine were delivered and are ready to be installed, and work continues on prepping for the engine. In the bow, supports are being added to support the windlass and anchor the bowsprit.
The new launch date for Virginia is spring 2022 (most likely May or early June). We looked for launch dates in 2021 but due to Covid-19 we could probably not have large crowds until late summer, and we would then not have time to complete the after-launch construction before the end of the season.
After a warm fall and early winter which allowed us to complete the wharf piles, February has been a cold one. We now have workers in the boatshed most days of the week, but they are working in small and separate groups due to Covid-19. We are still several months away from having more volunteers working.
A large portion of the bulwarks is done, and most of the deck calking is done. The next step is then to clean up the deck. The channels on the side of the ship where the shroud lines are connected have been cut and will be installed soon.
Outside in the boat yard Fred has finished carving the 40 holes for the windlass and is making a few more of the windlass bars. The windlass is a winch used to raise and lower the anchor and the standing rigging. It sits on the deck at the prow of the ship. The windlass is made from elm and is heavy, so Fred is installing extra supports below it.
Fred made a video “Making the Windlass” which shows the work to create Virginia’s windlass. This is also on the Videos page along with other MFS videos.
A new year begins and the projects continue. In the Kennebec, the dolphins are now in place for the wharf. This turned out to be harder than expected. Ledge was found when driving the piles for the south dolphin so it needed to be moved. Then coming in closer to set the support for the bridge they found only mud. What we have is now similar to the winter configuration for the wharf, but we expect to leave the bridge in place. These problems increased the cost for the wharf and we appreciate any donations for the wharf.
This work was done with the help of the tug Kennebec which is the last of the logging tugs built in Greenville Maine and was a museum piece itself until rescued back to working on the water.
In the boat yard, Fred ignores the cold to chisel out the holes in the windlass. The wood is very hard, which is good for the windlass but is extra work for Fred as there are 40 holes to drill and chisel. The rest of the rigging crew has been taking a break but you can see their work when to come to the Bath Farmers Market.
Inside the boatshed work continues on caulking the deck. This is slow as the number of volunteers has been low, as we are keeping the groups working together as small as possible due to Covid-19. Our small crew is approaching half done on this and we have seen the first puddles on the deck.
Work on the bulwarks continues and we got some more lumber from storm-damaged Bowdoin pines. Some of this will be used for floors in the bilge. This work is about 75% done. The last of the lead keel pieces is in place, but we still need to put in some more bolts.
We are in the process of contracting for the engine and related plumbing and tanks, and the electricals. 17th century ships did not have these things, but we need them to carry passengers.