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By Olivia Kiers / September 12, 12:00 AM
Boston Accent: Restoring History

Plimoth Plantation Director of Maritime Preservation and Operations Whit Perry relays the challenges of keeping the Mayflower II ship-shape



The Mayflower II is about to embark on a new voyage. Built in England as a reproduction of the original ship that carried the Pilgrims to the “New World” in 1620, Mayflower II made her own way across the Atlantic in 1957. She now resides near Cape Cod as a part of the living history museum at Plimoth Plantation. Yet, like any ship, the Mayflower II needs habitual refits in order to continue her mission, so Plimoth Plantation’s director of Maritime Preservation and Operations Whit Perry is busy preparing for the ship’s next stage. 

“We are embarking on a multi-year, multi-million dollar preservation and restoration of Mayflower II,” says Perry. “Significantly, now the ship is almost 60 years old, which makes it one of the oldest reproductions of an historic vessel in the United States. We really want to have Mayflower II ready for the 400th anniversary commemoration [in 2020] of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, as well as for the next 60 years of its lifecycle.” Perry spends his weeks locating shipwrights and riggers skilled in traditional techniques to perform the restoration, which will take place in Mystic, Conn., starting in November with the help of the Mystic Seaport Museum. Materials acquisition is also a hurdle. “It’s getting harder and harder to find the type of specialized white oak and other wooden materials in the quantity and quality that was originally put into the vessel in 1957,” says Perry. The process will cost at least $7.5 million.

For those journeying to the South Shore to visit Plimoth Plantation this fall, Mayflower II will remain open to the public until the day she leaves for Mystic (a day yet-to-be-determined as Perry considers weather, tide and currents). Of course, walking the deck of the Mayflower II is only one of many reasons to visit. “Anyone coming to Boston really must include Plimoth Plantation,” Perry states. “The living history aspect of our museum and ship, where we have such a hands-on feel with our people dressed in period clothing and able to pass on the knowledge of what went on in 1620 with the founding of the Plymouth Colony, is just not to be missed as part of the whole historical fabric that Massachusetts has to offer.”

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