AUGUSTA (AP) – A 38-foot shallop completed an 11-day journey Thursday that re-created the first trade voyage up the Kennebec River by the Pilgrims in 1628.

The Elizabeth Tilley, a replica of the boat used for the original trip, set sail July 28 from Plymouth, Mass., and stopped at 10 ports along the way, including Kennebunkport, Portland and Bath.

The trip replicated the voyage of John Howland from Plymouth to Cushnoc, the original name for the Augusta landing point. Shallops were common sailing and rowing boats in 16th- and 17th-century Europe,

Jay Adams, director of Old Fort Western, which is hosting the shallop’s stay in Augusta, said the Pilgrims made the voyage to help pay off debts they took on to finance their trip from England to America.

To do so, Pilgrims like Howland explored trading Plymouth corn for beaver pelts from the Kennebec-area Indians, Adams said. Howland made an exploratory foray up the Kennebec in 1625, and three years later the Pilgrims set up a trading post at Cushnoc that operated off and on into the 1660s.

The single-masted Elizabeth Tilley, named for John Howland’s wife, is the brainchild of Brad Gorham, president of the Pilgrim John Howland Society, which arranged to have the shallop built for the trip.

Of course, even the most faithful re-enactment comes up against the realities of the modern day such as the wake from speedboats gently rocking the shallop.

Then there’s the chase boat towing the Elizabeth Tilley on a windless Thursday afternoon. And on board there was a portable toilet.

But modernity did nothing to dampen the celebratory mood on board the shallop, or among the crowd of 200 people gathered to welcome its arrival at Augusta’s east landing just past noon Thursday.

There were speeches, a reception, and even a mock military band decked in 17th-century militia clothing. The pier-side party was a fitting end to a two-year labor of love for Peter Arenstam, who built the boat for the Pilgrim John Howland Society and led the crew.

“We created it based on 17th-century naval architecture practices, which were pretty rigid,” said Arenstam, a Bates College graduate who apprenticed in shipbuilding in Bath. “Though we’re familiar with this type of boat, this is the most unique vessel I’ve ever built.”

AP-ES-08-08-03 0218EDT



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