Flagship of the ‘Official Fleet of the Commonwealth of Virginia‘ to Depart Mid-June

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., June 10, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia, is embarking on a multiyear restoration of the Susan Constant, flagship of the official fleet of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

After 33 years of maritime education, the “floating classroom” will travel as early as June 15 to the Henry B. du Pont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut to begin work over the next two years to preserve it for future generations. The $4.7 million undertaking to repair and restore the wooden, 120-ton cargo vessel, was approved this spring by the Virginia General Assembly, and a fundraising effort is underway to support maritime education while the ship is away.

Under the helm of Captain Eric Speth, longtime director of Maritime Operations for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, a 15-member sailing crew will take the estimated 515-mile journey over a period of four to five days, weather permitting. Instead of sails, they will travel using diesel engines to reach their destination.

“Thanks to our highly dedicated and qualified paid and volunteer crew, Susan Constant was transformed from a museum exhibit to a fully operable ship ready for the trip to Mystic Seaport Museum where it will undergo restoration and be prepared for its next chapter of service teaching early Virginia history,” Speth said.

Since its commissioning on April 25, 1991, the Susan Constant has welcomed an estimated 19 million visitors – schoolchildren, presidents and even royalty – over the past three decades to climb aboard the re-created merchant ship. From the main deck, ‘tween deck and peering into its hold, guests learn about the 17th-century technology used to sail and navigate the square-rigged ship across the ocean during the 1607 voyage to Jamestown.

In Jamestown Settlement’s 67-year history, there have been two generations of the Susan Constant, one built in Norfolk in 1957 and the other, built at Jamestown Settlement in 1990, is still in use today. The Susan Constant, along with re-creations of the Godspeed and the Discovery, were designated as the “official fleet of the Commonwealth” by the Virginia General Assembly in 2001.

Shipyard Selection for the Susan Constant

Mystic Seaport Museum’s shipyard, which works exclusively on wooden ships, has been a leader in maritime preservation for more than half a century and is ideally suited for large wooden vessel restoration projects like Jamestown Settlement’s Susan Constant.

While Virginia has a rich history in shipbuilding and repair, existing shipyards in the state capable of accommodating a project the size of the Susan Constant have shifted their workforce to focus on modern naval and commercial metal vessels, Speth explained.

The Susan Constant is inspected annually by the U.S. Coast Guard and routinely maintained by staff shipwrights, mechanics and volunteers, with a thorough dry-dock inspection every five years. Work last spring entailed stabilizing the wood and painting the ship’s hull. Dry-dock inspections found the ship needs a comprehensive restoration to repair its hull planking, upper framing, mast and rigging components, and other pivotal hull structures. Fortunately, wooden ships are constructed in a way that allows cost-effective removal and renewal of deteriorated parts, Speth said. 

During restoration of Mystic Seaport Museum’s ship, the Charles W. Morgan, now 183 years old, shipwrights found evidence of prior “re-toppings,” where planking above the waterline and some of the structure’s hull were replaced. The Susan Constant will similarly be “re-topped” to extend the ship’s useful service life for at least another 20-30 years.

Speth explained that restoring a wooden ship in this manner is far less costly than replacement, which could total three to four times the estimated cost of the Susan Constant’s restoration. 

The Susan Constant is moored at the Jamestown Settlement ships’ pier, alongside re-creations of the Godspeed and Discovery. Until its departure, visitors can see the ship from the pier as the crew prepare the ship for its next journey. While the Susan Constant is away, the Godspeed and Discovery will allow guests to explore 17th-century maritime history.

Learn more about the Susan Constant and its restoration at jyfmuseums.org/susan-constant-restoration.

About Jamestown Settlement
Jamestown Settlement is a museum of 17th-century Virginia history and culture administered by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, an educational agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Located on Route 31 south of Williamsburg along the James River, the expansive museum features immersive gallery exhibits, artifacts, films and interactives that explore the convergence of Virginia Indians, English and West Central African cultures in the 1600s and living-history experiences in outdoor re-creations of a Paspahegh town, English fort and, at the ships’ pier, re-creations of the Godspeed and Discovery. To learn more, visit jyfmuseums.org and follow the museum on social media at @jyfmuseums.

About Mystic Seaport Museum
Mystic Seaport Museum is the nation’s leading maritime Museum. Founded in 1929 to gather and preserve the rapidly disappearing artifacts of America’s seafaring past, the Museum has grown to become a national center for research and education with the mission to “inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.” The Museum’s grounds cover 19 acres on the Mystic River in Mystic, CT, and include a re-created New England coastal village, a working shipyard, formal exhibit halls, and state-of-the-art artifact storage facilities. The Museum is home to more than 500 historic watercraft, including four National Historic Landmark vessels, most notably the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan. For more information, please visit mysticseaport.org and follow the Museum on FacebookXYouTube and Instagram.

MEDIA IMAGES: jyfmuseums.org/Home/Components/PhotoAlbum/PhotoAlbum/2/360

SOURCE Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/jamestown-settlements-susan-constant-to-embark-on-multiyear-restoration-302168715.html
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