Current status of Virginia
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. Work continues in the engine compartment with the powder coating of the supports done, and the fuel tanks ready to install.
The planking has been cleaned off following the final calking, the windlass is being installed, and work has started on contructing the hatch covers.
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
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.
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.
Winter has arrived in the boatyard, but work continues outside just as the shipwrights in 1607 continued thru the winter. In the Kennebec, piles are being driven to support the wharf.
Inside the boatshed, the process of making the deck waterproof continues. This calking consists of forcing oakum into the gaps in the deck planking and then sealing it with tar.
The Jane Stevens Visitor Center is closed this winter due to COVID-19 concerns but rigging can be seen between vendors at the Bath Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Only 17 customers are allowed in the freight shed at a time. A number of the vendors are set up outside, and some are only doing pickup of pre-orders.
Both the freight shed and boathouse can be visited from the comfort of your own computer using our virtual tour.
The plans for the launch of Virginia are still uncertain as COVID is still raging despite our hope for the future. As we deal with the pandemic of 2020, we should remember that in the years 1607-1610 there was a major pandemic among the native population of Maine.
Winter is fast approaching and with it a large increase in COVID-19 rates in Maine. Work on Virginia continues, but with existing teams of volunteers. We continue to monitor the Maine guidelines to ensure the safety of our volunteers. The shallop Jane Stevens is back in her tent in the boatyard.
Work on the wharf is starting in the boatyard with a team installing the landing. This is actually a septic tank filled with stones, with a wooden deck. The permanent parts of the wharf should be in place this year.
Inside the boathouse, one team is working on the bulwarks with the transom, prow, and port quarter in place. Another team is working to calk the deck and the smell of tar fills the boathouse. A third team is working in the engine compartment and will be installing tanks. Yet another team is installing the lead keel, with 5 or the 6 pieces in place.
In the boatyard, the larger spars are mostly done, but Fred still has some smaller pieces to keep him busy this winter.
In the freight shed, work on the rigging continues, but they will soon need to share space with the Bath Farmers Market.
Outside in the boatyard, Virginia’s rudder is taking shape, and the initial shaping of the bowsprit is complete. The Kennebec looks closer as a piece of the fence is down to start work on the wharf.
Inside the boatshed, work continues on the bulwarks, with the prow and transom done, and a lot of planks done on the port quarter.
In the freight shed, rigging work continues. The tops’l is bent, and work continues on other spars, and the various lines needed. We have an extra month in the freight shed as the Bath Famers Market will stay outside thru November.
An interactive 3D virtual tour was made on October 12, so you can see the various pieces of the ship on that day, including the rigging in the freight shed, the deck and below deck in the boatshed, and some spars in the boatyard. There are also drone shots above the freight shed with the trees in their full fall glory. The shallop Jane Stevens is now out of the water, but you can see it floating in the current from directly above in the drone view from above the Kennebec.
Work has started on an online exhibit The Art of the Virginia as we continue to adjust to the virtual Covid-19 world.