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Mayflower II returns to Plymouth Harbor

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Mayflower II is coming home Wednesday (Aug. 7) after a long, unexpected absence.
She is set to depart from Fairhaven early in the morning, and arrive in Plymouth around noon. The community is invited to gather on the waterfront to welcome her home
It was a bright and hopeful late December day when she was hauled out of the water in Fairhaven for a routine checkup. Every two years, she’s examined from stem to stern.
The plan is to make any necessary repairs, check on the general condition of the ship below the water line, and then get her back to Plymouth by mid-March, in time for the opening of Plimoth Plantation.
Every four years, however, the Coast Guard requires that a random sampling of fastenings in the hull area be removed to be sure they are still in serviceable condition.
They pulled eight nails from each of her sides last winter. Then, when they didn’t like the look of the first batch, the Coast Guard asked to see two more on each side of her stem.
Then the copper band at the water line was removed and, seeing the condition underneath, the Coast Guard asked that several planks be removed.
“Replacing the planks will add to the time the ship will be in the shipyard,” Mayflower II Capt. Peter Arenstam wrote optimistically in his blog in February. “It is time well spent, however, given the location of the planking being removed.”
It was also time well spent, it turned out, because, when they removed those planks, a rotted frame at the very back corner of the ship was revealed.
One thing led to another, and another, and very quickly it became apparent that the ship would not be back in Plymouth in time for the Plantation’s March opening.
Arenstam’s blog explained that the delays were due in part to deteriorating materials but, equally, to the manner in which a wooden ship is constructed.
“We had to remove the bowsprit from the ship,” Arenstam wrote in March. “The problem is the ship is a complicated puzzle. Each piece is interconnected and relies on another piece for the strength of the whole. It is a little like Jenga, that wooden tower game where you try to remove pieces without having the whole thing fall apart. Well, anyway, the bowsprit was sitting on a timber that at first we thought we could fix in place, but it turns out it is so far gone we had to replace the whole timber, which, as I said, the bowsprit was sitting on. So, the bowsprit was removed.”
Time is money, they say, and in this case that was thrice true.
The delay in returning to its homeport meant that the Plantation could not offer tours of the ship as part of its premium ticket.
The delays also meant the repairs were expensive, with special materials, such as white oak, needed and special craftsmanship required to turn those rare timbers into even rarer parts.
And the absence of the Mayflower II from the waterfront resulted in a clear, though hard to quantify, economic effect on Plymouth businesses.
Plimoth Plantation’s plan calls for Mayflower II to return to dry dock several times over the next seven years for scheduled winter repairs to ensure that she is in prime condition in 2020 for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim’s voyage.
For now, though, the focus is on welcoming her home.
She is set to depart from Fairhaven early Wednesday morning (Aug. 7), and arrive in Plymouth around noon. The community is invited to gather on the waterfront to welcome her home.
“Pilgrim Hall Museum is very happy to welcome back our historic (albeit much younger!) ‘sister’ to Plymouth’s waterfront. It simply hasn’t been the same without her,” Peggy Baker, interim director of the Pilgrim Society and Pilgrim Hall Museum commented. “It is wonderful to have the Mayflower II tied up at the dock and open for visitors, but there is something incredibly moving about seeing the ship out in the Bay approaching ‘home’ – her small size and the immensity of the water puts the Pilgrim adventure into perspective.”
”We are delighted to have Mayflower II back in Plymouth,” Senate President Therese Murray said. “She is an integral part of the American and English communities and plays a vital role in our history and local economy. She has been sorely missed.”

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