PRESERVING HISTORY: Mayflower II undergoing major renovation in Conn.

By: Gene Lavanchy

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PLYMOUTH, Mass. - The town of Plymouth takes center stage at Thanksgiving, but this year, something will be missing from the site where the pilgrims landed almost 400 years ago.

The replica of their ship, the Mayflower II, is currently at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut in the middle of a major makeover.

“The marine environment is one of the severe environments that you could put any type of piece of wood in," Whit Perry, director of maritime preservation for Plimoth Plantation, explained.

Built in England in 1957, the Mayflower II is now getting some much-needed restoration.

“Strictly speaking, when we are done with this restoration effort, we will have replaced about 50% of the structural parts of the ship,” Perry said.

It is painstaking work, using tools and methods from centuries ago.

Specific types and shapes of wood have come from as far as Denmark.  

One piece of oak is three inches thick and stretches for 45 feet.

Finding workers trained in techniques for this type of ship building was also a challenge, according to Perry.

That’s why the ship came to Mystic Seaport.

“We sort of specialize in traditional restoration,” Mathew Barnes, lead shipwright and project manager for the Mayflower II, said. “We are definitely in the business of history. If you're looking for historically accurate preservation of a ship, Mystic Seaport is where you want to come. We focus on traditional methods.”

Remaking the replica of the ship is a $7.5 million project.

The goal is to have the 106-foot vessel back in Plymouth by 2020, in time for the 400th anniversary of the pilgrim’s arrival.

As craftsmen meticulously perform their work, they feel a connection to the ship’s symbolic role in history.  

Dylan Perry, in his 20s, is coordinating the lumber for the project.  

“My biggest drive for doing this is hoping to expand the knowledge of our history and world history, so that people of all generations in society, but especially my generation, can be more connected to the past," Dylan Perry said.

The Mayflower II was given to the United States by the British as a show of gratitude for American support during World War II.

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