Friday, June 21, 2024

Jamestown Settlement’s Susan Constant Headed for Two-Year Restoration Project

Jamestown Settlement’s Susan Constant is heading to Connecticut for a two-year restoration project (Megan Roche/WYDaily)

WILLIAMSBURG — Susan Constant, Jamestown’s iconic tall ship, will be sailing up the coast in a matter of weeks to Mystic, Connecticut for a two-year restoration project.

Susan Constant is a replica of what is believed to be one of the ships the Virginia Company of London used to travel in 1607 to the New World. According to records, she had roughly 70 people on board.

Planned restoration efforts include wood replacement on her body and new planking.

“The ship is now 33 years old and much like wooden homes or parts of homes that are wooden, oftentimes it requires maintenance where the planking needs to be removed. When the planking is removed, oftentimes the framework underneath is still in good condition. From the inspections that we’ve done on Susan Constant throughout its life, we’ve tracked its condition and at this point, it is at a point where it makes sense for us to replace her planking, just like you would like a deck on the back of a house,” Eric Speth, Director of Maritime Operations at Jamestown Settlement, said.

The decision to send her to Mystic Seaport was an easy one and Speth explained some of the work that will be done on her.

“Mystic Seaport has a number of historical ships in its fleet. The folks there will be removing the mast, they will remove the bowsprit, and they will do repair work to the masts when the masts are on the ground at their work area. They will also pull the vessel out of the water on a dry dock that they have at Mystic Seaport, and once it’s out of the water, they will do the demolition work to remove the planking, and once that is done, it exposes all the framework. Then they can begin the process to renew the planking,” Speth said.

Mystic Seaport has estimated that the entire project will take two years.

While she is gone for restoration, Speth and his team are working to add other educational opportunities to make up for her absence.

“We are working on adding additional programming on the dock that will take some of the experience that a visitor might have on Susan Constant and move them to the dockside,” Speth said.

Godspeed and Discovery, the two smaller ships, will remain open and operational at Jamestown Settlement throughout Susan Constant’s two-year restoration project.

The ships serve the museum at Jamestown as floating classrooms. School groups and visitors often board her decks and can connect the history they have learned in the classroom to the physical ship itself.

“Susan Constant is the flagship of the fleet from the 17th-century voyage to Virginia. It is also the flagship of the Commonwealth of Virginia. She’s a floating classroom and she is very much a draw. She provides a hands-on experience that people can’t get anywhere else. It’s true living history,” Speth said.

Jamestown is hopeful that by sending the Susan Constant for restoration now, she will be back and fully operational again as Virginia celebrates the 250th anniversary of America’s birthday in 2026.

“We would like nothing more than to have Susan Constant spic and span and all renovated and ready to go for the celebration. It’s time for her to get that restoration, but also have her back for our 250th anniversary,” Speth said.

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