Current status of Virginia
Virginia is in Wiscasset under the cover of some tarps for the winter. The mizzen mast was taken down and a frame erected which allows workers onto the deck and below the deck. The tarps are translucent so it stays light on the deck.
The main work for the winter is below deck installing plumbing and crew quarters, and installing (and hiding) 21st century electronics.
The Wiscasset Town Dock flooded the same days as in Bath, but with a lot less current. Virginia rode out the storm fine, and the only casualty was one of the rails holding a line to Virginia. Following the flooding in Bath, the Kennebec River was full of ice flows. They were much smaller that those in the spring, but it reminded us why Virginia is wintering on the Sheepscot River in Wiscasset.
On December 23 we had a combined spring tide, a couple of feet of storm surge, and a lot of water coming down the river to create a major flood in the boatyard. It again flooded on Christmas Eve. A lot of our wood pile was moved around and lost a few pieces of wood, but then a couple of trees drifted into the boatyard, and a large amount of marsh straw. Our floats stored for the winter floated around, but the rope they were tied down with stopped them from entering the river. The dock in Wiscasset also flooded, but the current is a lot less there. As it is winter, a lot of the marsh grass and moved wooden blocks froze in their new location, but our valient clean-up crewe got it back to being presentable.
There will not be much news during the winter, but come spring we hope to have images of Virginia with blue skies, blue water, and red sails.
On December 6, Virginia left her wharf for the first time under her own power. This was a “river trial” of the engine and manuverability. Everything went well except for a small leak along the drive shaft when the propeller is revved up. Virginia was easily able to make 6 knots on a slack tide, which was our goal for the trip to Wiscasset. Virginia turned very well so the huge rudder seems to be the right size. The electronics necessary for navigation in the 21st century all worked well. It is getting pretty close to winter, and Virginia was lonely out on the Kennebec River.
On a cold and snowy December 12, Virginia took her first voyage on her own engines but without using the sails. Virginia went under the Sagadahoc and Carlton bridges in Bath at about 8:00am and arrived at the Wiscasset Town Dock at 1:00pm. The trip took Virginia down the Kennebec, past the Kennebec River light houses, past the site of the Popham Colony at the mouth of the Kennebec River, out into the Gulf of Maine, and then up the Sheepscot River to Wiscasset. Arriving in Wiscasset we fired one of Virginia’s guns for the first time from the ship.
The lonely wharf in Bath and the shallop Jane Stevens waited for another week before we lifted them into the boat yard. It was just in time because three days later on December 23, the whole boat yard and most of the parking lot was flooded by the combination of a spring tide, storm surge, and water coming down the river. The flooding was to just below the level of the deck which is about 3 feet above the common high tide level. There were waves across the boat yard and march straw floated in from down river with the storm surge. The floats from the dock floated around, but all of them stayed in the boat yard. We lost a few pieces of wood which floated off, but we gained a couple of trees that floating in. The flooding resumed at high tide on December 24 and again flooded the boat yard but not as high. Christmas Day saw water again in the boat yard, but not nearly as high. Cleanup was complicated by the fact that the marsh straw and floating wood froze in place overnight.
We launched with the top mast set, but it was plugged in place and could not be raised or lowered. Rob went up to the top to make this work. After a small amount of breakage, we can now raise and lower the top mast.
On November 13 we hosted the annual Women’s Shipbuilding Day. This year a group of about 25 women came to the event. The weather was rainny so we move the ash lumber into the freight shed to cut it down to make sweeps. Although we have this special day, we recognize that we have a number of women volunteers putting in a lot of hours on the construction and rigging crewe.
After working on the engine for over a year, we finally attached some controls and started it. Everything went well. We engaged the propeller and Virginia was ready to go, but a few extra lines kept her in place.
Our rigging gang set the bow sprit’sl and unfurled it. The sail caught the wind and Virginia strained against her line. We also raised the main square sail up the main mast.
The final (hopefully) version of the gammon knee was installed and we have hog tied the bow sprit to it.
On the freight shed we added the plastic windows and fixed the trim on the north side where the boat shed was. This allows us to open the doors on the north side during the winter.
The current plan is to move Virginia to the Wiscasseet Town Dock on December 12 but weather and tide will be consulted.
October starting with a bang as the lateen sail was carried onto Virginia and raised a number of times while making a sea shanty video. This was the first time a sail was raised on Virginia after they have been in the freight shed for a couple of years.
We could not leave the lateen sail up even furled as the shrouds for the mizzen mast were still not set, but Jim and the rigging gang started working on these, and by the end of the month the lateen sail is in its place. The ratlines up the main mast are now almost complete We will shortly be replacing the temporary batons with a small number of real batons.
For the hunters full moon we had a volunteer party but almost everybody was gone before the moon finally came out from behind the clouds. We are working in separte crews and do not always see each other, especially the groups working below decks on the electronics and engine.
The watertight bulkheads are done and the engine and full system are ready to test out as soon as we load in some fuel.
Apprentices from the Carpenter’s Boat Shop in Pemaquid came to be our muscle to carry the main sprit and main yard and square sail onto Virginia. A few of our older crew members could assisted them, and a good time was had by all.
The plan is now pretty firm to move Virginia to the Wiscasset Town Dock in the first week of December. The exact date will depend on weather and tide.
Above deck on Virginia we have been working on the shrouds for the main mast and getting the mizzen mast set. The mizzen mast is much lighter than the main mast and it only takes 3 strong men to carry it to Virginia. We got it down there with 4 of our crew. It took six people to figure out how it get it to sit in its shoe and a couple more up in the main mast to raise it.
We have batons in place up both sides of the main mast shrouds, andthe work to replace these with the permanent ratlines has started. Rob and Shaun spent several hours sitting on the top getting all of the lines untangled. We put in an extension ladder to get up there as nobody in our crew is athletic enough to swing up there from the top of the shrouds.
The first shroud for the mizzen mast is set, but there are four more to go.
There is some amount of banging going on in the engine compartment, and the engine and fuel lines are likely to be ready before the trip to winter storage.
On launch day we towed Virginia from the launch point a few hundred feet to her wharf and tied her up on the starboard side. At the beginning of August we turned Vriginia around to allow the painters and rigging crew to get at the port side from the wharf. This also gave visitors on the Sagadahoc Bridge (US1 over the Kennebec) a new view of Virginia.
There is 18,000 pounds of lead keel as ballast, but we have now added another 7,200 pounds of lead bars. There were 180 40 pound bars we had to move by hand from the boat yard and place into the hold and crewe compartment below the floor (sole).
The rigging crew continues work on the chain plates and stays for the main mast, including making ratlines to climb the rigging.
In the boat yard we have added a shelf for the radar onto the mizzen mast. There is a bunch of electronics work to do on our 17th century ship, as we plan on sailing her in the 21st century with passengers.
Below deck, work is near completion on the watertight compartments
In the freight shed we showed off some of the 17th century clothing including knitted clothing. We held a summer camp in conjunction with the Maine Maritime Museum.
Plans are being finalized for a winter location for Virginia. The high current and iceflows on the Kennebec River make it unsafe to keep her there. The river does not really freeze in Bath, but it does up river and on a tidal river the ice flows can hit us from both directions. The plan is to move Virginia to the Wiscasset Town Dock in mid to late November. This is 11 miles by road and about 14 miles by water from the Bath Freight Shed.
July 4, 2022 marked on month after the launch of Virginia with a lot of visitors during that month. This was also the end of a four day celbration of Bath Heritage Days concluding with fireworks shot off across the river from Virginia. The shallop Jane Stevens was “rowed” in the parade thru the streets of Bath.
A lot of paint was added on the bulwarks (both inside and outside) and parts of the planking above the water line. However, we could only paint the outside planking on the starboard side attached to the wharf.
During the month there was a lot less leakage into the hold as the planks became saturated in the water. Some water accumulates in the hold, but more comes from above than from below.
The chain plates and stays for the main mast were put in place by our rigging gang. The chain plates bolt thru the side of Virginia and can be seen in the hold. In the freight shed work continued adding hardware to the various spars.
Below deck work continued on the watertight bulkheads and on the engine and electronics.
At the end of July, we rowed Jane Stevens the 22 miles to the 17th Century Event at Colonial Pemaquid. We had two crews rowing and arrived at the event in 17th century clothing including a couple of reenactors.
June 1 – Launch day-3
In what used to be the boat shed, the first of three coats of paint went on the rudder. In the boat yard , a dumpster full of boat shed and other wood was filled up in a major effort to clean the area up. In the afternoon all of the scaffolding came down, leaving Virginia naked to the world except for the viewing platform at the transom.
June 2 – Launch day-2
A huge crane arrived in the morning and as it set up for the first move, the remaining small pieces of the boatshed were torn down. In the afternoon, the first move of Virginia into the parking lot allowed us to clean up the area which was the boatshed. As soon as Virginia was in her new location, a swarm of workers went out to do some more painting.
June 3 – Launch day-1
Early in the morning Virginia made a second move to her launch location, and once again the paint brushes came out. By noon a second crane arrived for the launch on Saturday. In the afternoon the combined main and top masts were lifted and set, and then the bowsprit as well. Everything was chaos in the freight shed as final work on rigging was being done, and work on the model continued.
June 4 – Launch day
Virginia started the day held by two large cranes. And even as several thousand people gathered for music, fun, reenactors, food, and drink, the volunteers of Maine’s First Ship got in a coat of linseed oil on the center portion of Virginia, and worked to cut chain plates while on scaffolding and not on the water. Open the launch page to see videos or just search of Maine’s First Ship on YouTube. After the very hectic day, the volunteers working on Virginia gathered for beer and lasagne, and Virginia was left alone at her very own wharf. There has been very little water leaking into Virginia.
On the website, we have a new color scheme. No longer the brown of the oak and pine, but the blue water, and the masthead of Virginia on her wharf at the sun set on her first day on the water.
The next few weeks were a time off for most of the crewe, but soon we were back working on painting, rigging, below deck, and electronics. As always, we welcome visitors while we work. There is still construction to do, we will just be doing it in the water now.
May is the last full month before the launch of Virginia on June 4. On the ship there are still some things to do. The boat shed is gone as Virginia stands covered only by some scaffolding. Most of the tools removed to the freight shed.
A cold, windly, and rainy April left us unable to paint Virginia, but on the very first day of May the painting of the bulwarks began, and Virginia now has her chevrons and racing stripes. We now have several coats of paint on much of the ship. The painting of the outside of Virginia needs to be complete before launch. The paint dries a lot quicker when it is warmer.
Virginia is still missing the fore bulwarks as we have been waiting for the wood. We have the wood, so we aer now steaming and installing them. We have the rudder gudgeons and pintles (hinges) so we can complete the rudder installation in May. The ship has gudgeons and the rudder has pintles. On the deck we need to complete the hatch covers.
Below deck we need to get bilge pumps installed as Virginia will take on a lot of water before the planks swell up. A combination of permanent bilge pumps for each watertight compartment, and temparary sump pumps will be used.
Out in the boat yard, the wharf is now fully installed and waiting for Virginia. As a preview of launching Virginia by crane, we put in Jane Stevens by crane as we were installing the wharf, and she is holding down Virginia’s spot on the wharf. We are putting in electricity and water to the wharf.
Launching the shallop Jane Stevens
There are projects all around the freight shed as the crewe works to complete the tasks needed for the launch. Out in the boatyard Fred is chisling the rudder to put on a shoe. He also completed the painting of the top in Virginia’s colors.
Inside the freight shed we now have the hinges for the rudder. The farmers market is gone for the summer, and we are converting it back into the Jane Stevens Visitor Center. The rigging is being sorted and prepared to be installed after the launch. The renovation of the model continues and its paint job is done, but like Virginia at launch, it does not have its rigging yet.
Inside the boat shed the propeller is in place, but it will soon be hidden by the rudder. The roof on the boat shed has been damaged a number of times this winter and spring by wind. However, the building only has another month to live so now we just have a tarp inside the boat shed.
There has been a massive job of sanding all of the planking and bulwarks both outside and inside the ship. The black and white chevrons have been marked and waiting for the weather to warm up so we can paint. On deck the hatches and ladders are done except for the hatch covers. The lining of the hawsholes is complete and the transom has been reinforced.
Below deck the installation of the engine is near completion, but work on the electronics will be done after launch. Water tanks in the crew compartment are installed as are the frames for the watertight bulkheads, but Virginia is still open end to end for now.
The boatyard is muddy with March rain as we prepare the wharf for visitors. It is Spring already and June 4 is looming on the calendar. We added hog fencing around the landing. The ramp is manufactured and we expect delivery in early April.
Inside the boat shed work has started on the fore bulwarks. We had problems with bending these and we have been waiting for wood. This needs to be done before we can paint the bulwarks. The kind of paint and exact colors have been chosen, but painting also needs to wait until it is warmer and dryer. Until then all of the areas to be painted need to be sanded which will take quite a bit of time.
The roof of the boatshed still has a number of small holes, but the whole boatshed is coming down in 2 months.
The ladders for all three hatches are built as set temporarily in place. The hatch supports are in place but the sides and covers still need to be fitted. Below the deck we are installing bulkheads (walls) between the four watertight compartements (chain locker, crew, hold, engine). Each compartment has a bilge pump which will be needed for launch as wooden ships leak for a while until the wood swells.
The sternpost has be carved out to increase the water flow to the propeller.
In the boat shed, a number of small projects are being done on Virginia. The crewe is now working 4-5 days per week to get things done before launch. All of the pinrails now have small knees and the belaying pins are in place. Work is progressing of the hatches which will double as seating, and we are building the ladders to get below deck.
The step to hold the mizzen mast is now in place, just aft of the engine hatch.
A meeting with the MFS volunteers and experts in naval architecture and the practical issues of sailing was held to finalize plans for the Virginia’s electronics.
We know that all of the surfaces of a 17th century (or 21st century) sailing ship would be painted, but we don’t know how Virginia was painted. The only drawing we have shows chevrons and we know geometic shapes were common at the time. We have chosen a design of black and white chevrons (for the virgin Queen Elizabeth for whom the ship is named), with red accents on the bulwarks. The bottom of the ship will be off-white, and the planking natural oil. Inside will be yellow ocre with some red accents.
The plan is to use linseed oil paint which is close to what would have been used in the 17th century. We still need to choose the exact colors.
Inside the freight shed, the top is near completion, and the model is stripped and almost ready to start re-installing the rigging. It will be getting a paint job to match the real Virginia.
After another wind storm, the roof of the boat shed was damaged again. We did some repair but we hope this is the last one as the boatshed is comming down in late May.
As part of Bath Winterfest 2022, we publicly fired Virginia’s cannon for the first time.
After a bit of a break for end of year holidays, our volunteers are back working on Virginia. When it is cold in the boatshed and freight shed, we know that the winter of 1607-1608 was a lot colder.
The ring for Virginia’s top is being constructed in the freight shed. This is where the main mast and top mast are connected, and provides a place to anchor various lines.
In the boatshed work continues on reenforcing the transom and providing the mounting for the mizzen mast. Small knees have been added to all of the pinrails.
For the reconditioning of the model, the windlass now matches the full size version, including a working pawl.