Replica ship re-creates Pilgrims’ Kennebec voyage

This story was published on Aug. 05, 2004 on Page B6 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA – A replica of a sailing ship that carried Pilgrims up the Kennebec River in 1628 to establish a fur trading post at what is now Maine’s capital has re-created that historic voyage for the second time in two years.

The crew of the 38-foot Elizabeth Tilley is made up of four descendants of John Howland, who made the original trip from Plymouth, Mass., to Cushnoc, now the site of Old Fort Western.

The sailors were clad in heavy garments similar to what Howland and his crew would have worn. But after their arrival, the four donned conventional garb better-suited for the summer heat.

“We just got this breeze now,” said Sandee Clark, fanning a bright green T-shirt.

On the voyages, Clark dresses as a man. But in the onshore re-enactments, she dresses as a woman of the 17th century, greeting visitors who are welcomed to step on the low, narrow vessel.

“It’s a delightful adventure for some,” she said. “It’s living history re-enactment.”

A cousin, Richard Clary of Lynn, Mass., offered a hand to those climbing aboard and showed the crawl space under the deck that serves as sleeping quarters for the crew.

A few bags of ice and a portable toilet were the only evidence of modern amenities. This week’s Augusta visit reprises the single-masted ship’s maiden voyage last summer.

Tacking up the Kennebec River took several days as the ship rode north with the tide, tying up when the tide turned and then continuing north the next day.

This time, a fishing boat towed the ship, keeping it in the narrow channel. Clark said the ship draws 3 feet of water. The vessel, a shallop, was named after Elizabeth Tilley, who was 13 when she crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower. Three years later, she married Howland.

Cushnoc proved one of the most successful pre-colonial trading posts, set up as a joint stock investment company. Its debts were paid off by 1644, shortly before the slowing of fur trade with the Indians.

Last year, the Elizabeth Tilley crew received a token beaver pelt when they arrived in Augusta to mark the 375th anniversary of the opening of the fur trading post.

The Pilgrim John Howland Society, which numbers 1,200 descendants, received funding from the Champlin Foundation to build a replica shallop using 17th-century shipbuilding methods and tools.

For this year’s visit, Jonathan Stubbs of Chelmsford, Mass., served as captain. John Howland of Waldoboro rounded out the crew.

The shallop departs for Massachusetts on Thursday.