Ship Virginia talk at WPL

Tue, 03/14/2023 - 8:45am

Join Jim Parmentier for his program at Wiscasset Public Library at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 22 as he presents “Reconstructing the 1607 ship Virginia.”

In 1607, English colonists settled at the mouth of the Kennebec River in what is now Phippsburg, to explore the land they called Northern Virginia. The Popham Colony, named after England’s Lord Chief Justice and one of its primary investors, was to be a sister colony to Jamestown. The settlement lasted only 15 months due to an unexpectedly cold winter, the lack of lucrative mining enterprises, and the loss of leadership caused by the death of its president. Nevertheless, during the winter of 1607-1608, the colonists constructed a small ship to support their colonial enterprise. They named their ship Virginia of Sagadahoc and when the colony was abandoned after 14 months they sailed her back to England. In  1609, Virginia crossed the Atlantic again, as part of a convoy to help re-supply the colonists in Jamestown, and remained to serve as a workboat for the settlement. Her last recorded assignment was to go fishing in Chesapeake Bay.

In 2011, Maine’s First Ship, a non-profit organization in Bath, began building a reconstruction of the original Virginia in Bath under the direction of shipwright Robert Stevens. Last June, Virginia was launched to much local fanfare. Since then we’ve rigged her, installed a Coast Guard-required diesel engine, and fitted her out for private (not yet public) use. In December, after a short sea trial, Virginia embarked on her first voyage, traveling 30 miles down the Kennebec, out into the Gulf of Maine, and up the Sheepscot to her winter quarters in Wiscasset. You can see her there now, downrigged, covered with a white tarp, sitting a bit forlornly at your town dock.

The presentation will tell of the Popham Colony and the archeological work in the mid-1990s that established the existence of this English settlement. The new ship’s design and construction will also be described.

The Virginia of Sagadahoc was the first ship built by Europeans in the New World. Our modern Virginia is a reconstruction, an educational platform that will be used to teach visitors to our area about Maine’s shipbuilding industry and other aspects of our early maritime history.