Cast off and clew up: Crew trains to sail replica Jamestown ship


ABOARD THE GODSPEED (AP) – Many of the paid crew and volunteers who’ll be aboard the Maine-built Godspeed when it embarks Monday on a promotional East Coast tour have sailed other replicas of 17th-century ships.

Still, when it comes to handling the more than 100 lines that control the sails on the square-rigger’s three masts and heeding orders like “avast on the port sheet” and “clew up the spritsail,” a refresher couldn’t hurt.

So the Godspeed, a $2.6 million recreation of one of the three ships that brought America’s first permanent English settlers to Virginia, headed out for some short practice sails before its 80-day voyage to begin an 18-month series of events marking Jamestown’s 400th anniversary.

“To me it looked like everyone picked it right up and learned the ropes on the new Godspeed, and we’re ready for our voyage,” a satisfied Eric Speth, the ship’s captain, said at the conclusion of a 2 1/2-hour training sail May 15.

Passengers on the Jamestown-Scotland ferry crossing the James River near Williamsburg caught a glimpse of the 17th century as the replica Godspeed sailed past the spot where the settlers landed on May 13, 1607 – 13 years before the Pilgrims arrived at what is now Plymouth, Mass.

“Clear the deck lines and head aloft,” Speth shouted between cupped hands as the ship got under way.

“Aye!” crew members responded.

The sunny skies and light breeze gave the crew perfect conditions to practice climbing the rigging and letting out sails as Speth steered with a tiller.

“What you do is learn this by station,” said crew member Jim Dillard, among the 30 volunteers who will join the Godspeed on various legs of the voyage.

“You work one station until you know that line and know what the line does,” said Dillard, a former state legislator who represented Fairfax County in the House of Delegates for 31 years. “Then next time on board … you know that’s the spritsail sheet, because you worked them.”

Jamestown anniversary organizers are counting on the “Godspeed Sail” to generate interest in the commemoration.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will be on hand to see off the Godspeed as it departs Monday from its home berth at the state-run Jamestown Settlement living history museum.

Its first stop will be Saturday in Alexandria. The ship will be accompanied by a free “Landing Party” with live performances, historical exhibits and cultural displays there, as well as at later stops in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Newport, R.I.

At each port, the Godspeed’s crew will be dressed in historical costume as visitors come on board. While the ship is in “museum mode,” modern navigational equipment and amenities such as a shower and small kitchen will be hidden to preserve the 17th-century atmosphere.

“We’re trying to teach it to people and we’re trying to give everybody who wants an opportunity to come aboard and see what it was like,” said Kaia Danyluk, the ship’s boatswain, who is responsible for knowing where everything is stored and organizing down below deck.

The ship will sail with a 12-person crew. Many are employees of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, which runs the museum, and have sailed on a previous version of the Godspeed or replicas of the settlers’ two other ships, the Susan Constant and the Discovery.

Noel Veden, the ship’s cook, said he couldn’t pass up the chance to go on the voyage.

“I talked to my wife about being gone 80 days … and I said, This is something that I’ll never get to do again, I’ll never have this opportunity again, so I’ve got to do it,’ and she agreed,” said Veden, 69, a retired insurance broker.

Built at Rockport Marine Inc., in Rockport, Maine, the Godspeed arrived at Jamestown Settlement on May 7. It will replace an older replica, built of pine in the 1980s, that is deteriorating. The new ship is made from rot-resistant tropical hardwoods and has twin diesel engines for use when conditions become difficult.

Because there are no known illustrations or blueprints of the Godspeed or its sister ships, the ship was built based on the design of other ships from the early 17th century and documentation that the original Godspeed could carry 40 tons of cargo and passengers.

All that research resulted in a replica that is more accurate, and roomier, Speth said.

Still, there’s no denying that the men and boys who sailed the Atlantic for nearly five months to get to the New World endured unpleasant conditions, with the 13 crew members working on the deck and the 39 passengers stuck in the cargo hold with barrels of supplies, with the hatch sealed shut during foul weather.

“It had to get pretty rank,” Veden said.

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