Steel beams, wooden spars, iron strops: a Mayflower update

As 2018 comes to a close, progress isn’t slowing down on Mayflower’s restoration. The combined Plimoth Plantation and Mystic Seaport Museum team is working diligently on this historic project and staying on track for completion in 2019.

It was a milestone-heavy Fall, with the removal of the large steel I-beams that helped provide structural integrity during hull planking, as well as the installation of plank 182 – the last hull plank below the ship’s wale, also known as a shutter plank or a whisky plank.

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Structural I-beam removal. © Plimoth Plantation

Mayflower II Whiskey Plank

Installing the whiskey plank. © Plimoth Plantation

More recently, the crew began the process of turning a 70-foot spar that will become the ship’s new main mast on Mystic Seaport Museum’s 1940s era lathe. The machine is truly a work of art. Still, there will be plenty of hand work to come on this spar and we look forward to bringing you more photos and video of the process.

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Preparing a spar for turning. © Plimoth Plantation

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Soon to be Mayflower’s main mast. © Plimoth Plantation

In the machine shop at Mystic Seaport Museum, blacksmiths are hard at work bending iron strops for “deadeyes” that will be part of the ship’s rigging. Pictured on the left is a deadeye from the 1957 construction and on the right, a new one made of hardy purple heart.


Deadeyes, old and new. © Plimoth Plantation

Like much of the skilled work that goes into restoring Mayflower, the process of creating these strops on a custom form requires patience, communication, and dedication to craft.

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Deadeye form. © Plimoth Plantation

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A propane forge heats iron strops at nearly 2500 degrees. © Plimoth Plantation

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Smiths bending a deadeye strop for Mayflower’s rigging. © Plimoth Plantation

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© Plimoth Plantation

On the other side of Mystic Seaport’s campus, riggers are preparing various shrouds and stays in the “rope walk.” This longer-than-wide space allows the team to work on 150 feet of cordage stretched out straight. Interestingly, the rope walk building in use at Mystic Seaport was once located back in Mayflower‘s hometown as the Plymouth Cordage Company!


Now a working exhibit building at Mystic Seaport Museum, the rope walk was originally the Plymouth Cordage Company! © Plimoth Plantation

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Rigger Sarah Clement (Mystic Seaport Museum) operating a handmade tool that enables four strands of worming to be laid on a shroud at once, tightly. © Plimoth Plantation

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Rigger Don Heminitz (Plimoth Plantation) working on serving, painting and parceling. @ Plimoth Plantation

We are looking forward to bringing you more updates in 2019 as this historic project nears completion. In the meantime, we continue to raise the final funds needed for the Mayflower Restoration Project and hope you will consider a tax-deductible gift today. Your participation at any level makes it possible to extend the ship’s unique educational mission for many years to come. Thank you!

Wishing you a happy holiday season from all of us at Mayflower and Plimoth Plantation!

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