Building Mayflower II

A reproduction ship sails into history.

By John Galluzzo

The United States is home to an estimated 20 million people who are descendants of the Pilgrims who sailed from England to Plymouth aboard the Mayflower in 1620. In 1955, when Warwick Charlton envisioned building a reproduction—Mayflower II—he saw the ship not as a gift to Plymouth, but as a gift to the United States for helping his native England persevere through its troubles in World War II. News spread throughout the United States and Burton Wheeler, a member of the board of directors at the Historical Society of Old Abington, visited Upham’s Shipyard at Brixham, Devon, England, on July 16, 1956, and obtained these photographs of the Mayflower II under construction, from the official photographer of the project, Les Owen.

MODEL SHIP

Nobody knew what the original Mayflower looked like. Understanding ship construction and styles of the past, the shipbuilders made an educated guess. In this photo, Hingham’s William A. Baker (standing on the right) discusses his design for Mayflower II, alongside a model of what would eventually sail to Plymouth in 1957.

CHECKING THE RIBS

The wood chosen to construct the ship was English oak. It formed the ribs of the ship, shown here, and collectively created the frame. As far as possible, the ship would be made from the same materials as a 17th century ship. The nails would be hand-forged and the sails were hand-sewn. The cordage (rope) would be made of hemp and the tar from Stockholm, Sweden.

FIRST DECK BEAMS

Looking toward the bow of the ship, this photo shows workmen hauling the first deck beams aboard. Part of the enjoyment (and challenge) of constructing Mayflower II was that it was constructed using the same tools and methods used by 17th-century shipwrights.

MAIN DECK BEAM

Toward the back of the Mayflower II, we see workmen at the Upham shipyard placing the main deck beam into position on May 2, 1956. Deck beams run across the ship from port to starboard and support the deck, while also keeping the sides of the ship at a proper distance from one another to maintain balance and buoyancy. watertight as the hull, since freshwater (rain) can be just as damaging as seawater. Here, the starboard side of the Mayflower II is being planked. Mayflower II launched on September 22, 1956, and just seven months after that, it sailed across the Atlantic and into history.

PLANKING

Without proper planking, a boat would be sunk, and any good captain will tell you that the deck has to be as watertight as the hull, since freshwater (rain) can be just as damaging as seawater. Here, the starboard side of the Mayflower II is being planked. Mayflower II launched on September 22, 1956, and just seven months after that, it sailed across the Atlantic and into history.

 

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