Tagged: pilgrims

The 2015 roundup.

Yes I know it’s a tiny bit late and we’re well into 2016, but I’ve been waiting to see if any build news came out of the project before updating. Unfortunately, it’s been over a year since the last work was done on the build and (as far as I’m aware from looking at the build) there has been no addition. If this is an error, I’m quite happy to correct it if contacted by a Project spokesperson. But as with my last post, I’m unable to give any build updates.

The only updates I have, which are also in the public domain are that during 2015, the project lost its one and only shipwright (as previously mentioned) and gained a CEO, although he too seems to have parted company with the project after only a few months at the helm.

The Project continues to ask for donations, specifically mentioning the build, yet (due to a continued lack of information), nothing seems to be happening in that area .

The latest figures for the Project show that their yearly income for the year ending in March 2015 was just under half a million pounds, or for those across the pond, approximately three quarters of a million dollars. (source: http://www.charitychoice.co.uk/harwich-mayflower-project-23553). If a portion of that figure was donations, would it be too much to ask how those donations were spent?

Most charities, have a newsletter that explains what they’re doing and where the funds are going. For example “Thank you for all your donations in the last year, with your help we have raised x amount and been able to do X Y and Z”. If anyone has a newsletter/s from the Project that they can forward to me I’d be happy to receive a copy and to post the information here.

A online news site recently ran a piece on the Project and quoted the following:

The project originally aimed to raise £4m and while unable to say how much has been raised, the trust has been able to start the build from donations received so far”

Unable to say how much has been raised”???

Surely any charitable trust would have at least one accountant keeping records and as finances can be publicly accessed (see above), why and more importantly how, is the project not aware of how much has been raised. I’m not too sure I’d want to donate my hard earned cash to a charity if they can’t even keep track of it!

Towards the end of 2015 in October there was a piece in the local newspaper that mentioned a part of this blog. (Source: http://www.harwichandmanningtreestandard.co.uk/news/13924907._Will_Mayflower_ship_be_ready_for_pilgrim_crossing_anniversary__/)

“It’s been almost a year since the last update to the build and since then absolutely nothing has happened.

“I am still hopeful that I will be able to stand on the Harwich Quay in 2020 and wave off the Mayflower as she sets sail to The New World. “Unfortunately as we sail into 2016, there’s a small part of me that thinks I may be walking past a derelict railway yard full of rotting oak instead.”

The project replied as follows:

But a spokesman for the project dismissed the claims and said the build was not intended to start until January 2016, so has in fact started early.

Over the past three years the project has concentrated on the training centre.

It’s about building the ship but it’s about what the ship will give to the area afterwards.”

The Mayflower Project has today launched a new friends scheme   

For £30, or £15 concessions, members of the public can get updates, a certificate and be entered into a spring prize draw to win a case of Mayflower wine.

As far as I can see, this raises a few questions. Firstly, why start a build ‘early’ just to stop work on it for over a year. Next, as we enter March two months after the official build start date, how is that build progressing. Also why waste time and (I’m assuming) donations on starting a build before your admitted ‘start’ date of Jan 2016, just to see the wood laying in the yard? If the build did not start in January 2016 (as the Project said it would) what is the reason for that? As it is now five months since that newspaper piece, I’m assuming there’s been several ‘updates’. Could someone please forward me the ‘updates’ mentioned by the spokesperson so I can pass some information on via this blog.

By its very nature any charity project should be transparent and open. If a charity receives hard earned money from members of the public, surely that charity should at the very least let the public know what is being done with that money? Is it too much to ask that the Harwich Mayflower Project which actively asks for donations for a ship build, keeps the public informed as to how that build is progressing and if it’s not progressing or it’s been held up then surely they should let people know? But then again, maybe they have and I’ve just not seen or heard it.

A Harwich Mayflower update

As my little blog has today received it’s 300th email follower and sees an average of 1000 visitors a week from all over the world, but mostly the USA (waves to everyone across the pond). I think it’s time I got back in the swing of things and gave you guys an update.

Well it’s been almost a year since the last update to the build (the adding of a frame) and since then… Absolutely nothing has happened. The existing build still lays in the yard as it did ten months ago, the only difference is that it’s weathered and worn and starting to crack as it’s continually exposed to the elements. I’m not a shipwright, although I’m guessing that by now, some of the build will be unusable and will have to be replaced.

Talking of Shipwrights, I’d like to say a big thank you to Chris who contributed some excellent pictures and words to earlier posts. He was the one and only Shipwright at the Mayflower and has now moved on to other things. A great guy and very skilled at his chosen trade, I’d like to wish him well in whatever he’s doing now.

So, nearly a year and there’s been no work done on the build. As you know I have no access to the inner workings of the Project and I know no more than anyone outside the Project, which at the moment is absolutely nothing. There are no newsletters coming out, no announcements, no posts on the website as to why there hasn’t been any work on the build and the Facebook and Twitter feeds are less than useless for information. There has been no contact from anyone at the Project to say what is happening or why work has stopped, although it seems the local community is starting to feel a little uneasy. I’ve had several comments sent on to me to the effect that the Project is “a scam” and mentioning “friends and families” contacting “the Charities Commission”. While I have no idea as to the basis for these comments, nor in fact do I assume there to be any misappropriation of funds or any wrongdoing at the Project, this gives an example of feelings amongst the community that have risen due to (one would assume) a lack of any information.

I would hope that the New Year will bring news of a flurry of activity as the build progresses, but at the moment, who knows.

There you go, that’s all from me for now. Not much of an update, but then there’s nothing that’s been updated! If there is any change at the project I will of course let you know, but change or not, my next post will be my usual end of year update.

I am still hopeful that I will be able to stand on the Harwich Quay in 2020 and wave off the Mayflower as she sets sail to The New World. Unfortunately as we sail into 2016, there’s a small part of me that thinks I may be walking past a derelict railway yard full of rotting oak instead. James Kelly: theshipsblog.net

Mayflower Murals

It’s been a bit of a busy summer for me, work has been hectic and I’ve just completed a bicycle ride along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland. For those of you that follow my cycling blog, you’ll already know about my adventures as I cycled from Galway to Dingle (including the hell that was ‘Corkscrew Hill’). So as  it’s been a while since I ventured into the Railway yard that holds the Mayflower Project, today I paid them a visit.

I wanted to get some updates on how they were getting on and hopefully get you some pictures of the progress of the build. Unfortunately as the summer draws to a close, I’m unable to report any further progress on the build. Being independent of the project, I’m not privy to the stages of the build or any information as to a timeline. But what I do know is that everybody there is as positive and upbeat about the project as they were when I first arrived. I can’t say when I’ll have new pictures of the build, but you can rest assured that as soon as something stirs in the Old Railway Yard in Harwich, I’ll be there like a shot with my camera!

So in the meantime and to let you know that the project and this blog are still alive, I’ve decided to take a few pictures of the ‘Mayflower Murals’ that have recently been completed and surround the building. The murals were painted by a mix of volunteers, school students on work experience placements and learners on vocational skills courses (These local residents  achieved units of qualifications in Art and Design)

Please note the photos have been reduced in size and clarity for uploading and any picture can be clicked on for a bigger image. Also, is is just me or does the mural of John Howland look like the actor Jake Gyllenhaal?  Photography and content: James Kelly.

End of year update

In April of this year, I walked past a Railway yard and spotted dozens and dozens of logs, there must have been hundreds of tons of wood. From the outside of the Railway yard there was no indication of what the place was, even the name was a bit ambiguous. Living in a town where everything from the local chip shop to the local school and taxi firm has a “Mayflower” in its name, the “Mayflower Project” could have been anything. Being the inquisitive type, I went home and Googled it. Turns out they were building the Mayflower!  I went to the website to see how much they had built and if I could get in to see it. Back then the website had no information on the build.  I had no idea if it was built, or being built, or if I could even see it and it was sadly lacking in photos or any kind of live video link.

The next day I ventured back there and met a guy called Sean Day. I mentioned being interested in the build and also that I’d like to take photos and start a blog to document the build, hopefully helping people see just how the build was progressing. Strangely enough, he agreed. In the time since then, my little project has turned into a blog that has received over 14,000 visits in the last eight months.

After helping with a few tours, my Mayflower knowledge was soon expanded when I was given a wonderful gift of  “Mayflower: The voyage that changed the world”, a book that I read in one sitting and have read a few times since. It is thanks to this book (and the wonderful friend that gave it to me) that I can now spout facts and figures about the Mayflower voyage as well as several of the main characters involved.

This brings us to December and the current build. You’ll see from the blog that the build has gone from tons of English oak in the yard, to what is rapidly becoming recognisable as a ship. I did think that Frame 20 may have been up before Christmas (and it may still be), but after a visit today, I was told it was unsafe to lift the frame due to the high winds. If this is not done within the next week, I’m assuming it’ll be lifted into place in early Jan and I’ll hopefully be there to get pics for you

As this is likely to be my last post before the end of the year, I’d like to take a little bit of your time to mention a few people:  Sean Day, for getting over his initial worries that I was a “nut with a camera” and allowing me access to the Project. Chris, Tony, Brett, Tasha  and Dave for being ever patient with me, answering all my questions and allowing me to poke my camera in their faces while they try to build the Mayflower. Mick, the yard manager, whose constant cry of  “Oi, where the bloody hell do you think you’re going” seems to follow me around. Yasmine and Toni, the admin ladies that are always ready with a smile and an answer to all my questions. Steph, who has more artistic talent in her little finger than I have in the whole of my body. Paul, gotta love that goatee.  Tom Daly, the Project chairman. A man whose quiet demeanour and lilting Irish brogue belies a passion and fervour for the Project that will see it completed, no matter what stands in his way.

Finally, a huge thank you to my friend across the pond for sending me that book. A wonderful surprise gift that ignited my passion for the Mayflower and one of the reasons I’m so interested in seeing this project all the way through to the end.

Well that’s it really, it just remains for me to say thank you to you dear reader. You’re why I write this blog and why I continue to annoy the shipwrights at the Mayflower Project. Thanks for being here over the last few months, I hope to see you again in the New Year as the Mayflower continues to grow and I continue to update you on the build. Have a wonderful Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.




Work starts on frame 20

Yes, you read that right. The guys at the Project have started work on their first frame. As this is the first major update to the ship build in a while, I’ll be uploading quite a few pictures and going into this part of the build in a little more depth than usual.

As I’m not a shipbuilder, I decided to see if I could have a chat with the shipwright to see how this part of the build would progress and how they were moving forward. Although Chris Conway is an extremely busy man, he was happy to sit down with me for a while and talk me through how frame 20 would be built. I didn’t take notes or make any record of our chat, so for all you boat building types out there, please excuse me if I make any mistakes.

If you look at the drawing in my last post, you’ll see some numbers along the bottom. Each of these numbers is a separate frame and you can see that frame 20 is midships. The frames of the ship are the ribs which will see the the body of the ship starting to take shape.

Frame 20 is being made from Oak that is already in the Project yard. It will also be using some wood sourced from Grimsby. Although the project has tons of wood available to them in their yard, they need logs with a curve  to allow them to cut the curved futtocks (sections of the frame) with the grain. Cutting a curved futtock from straight grain will result in a week section, which could snap under stress.

The pictures below show the oak being cut and each separate futtock as it makes up the frame. As you can see, the frame will be double width with the top futtocks overlaying the join of the bottom sections.

Any picture can be clicked on to get an enlarged version.








The image below shows the positioning of the section of frame pictured. This drawing looks along the ship and shows the completed frame in cross section. Drawing used with permission of THMP. original source, Graham Westbrook



The section of frame shown in my photos is the part of the frame between ‘A’ and ‘B’.  The green lines show the sections (futtocks) on the bottom of the frame, while the purple lines show the futtocks on the top of the frame.  The ‘floor’ of the frame and some further sections may (as already mentioned) be sourced from a Grimsby woodyard.

Once again, thanks to Chris for taking the time to explain this to me and for providing extra pictures. Content: James Kelly. Photography: James Kelly/Chris Conway.

The Longboat

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After what may have seemed like a lull in the ship build (although work was furiously carrying on behind the scenes, I was away for a little while) I have enough information for several posts and pictures of the ongoing build that will hopefully interest those of you following the build. For now, as time is short, I’ll have to leave you with a little taster of what is to come in the following posts and give you an update on progress.

As the autumn, gives way to a cold and rainy British winter, the craftsmen on the Project will be using any ‘rain days’ to work indoors on the Mayflower Longboat. For those of you not familiar with the ship, the Longboat was stored on the centre of the main deck of the Mayflower and was used to ferry crew and passengers to land while the Mayflower was anchored off shore. I’ve included a 3d image of the proposed longboat here for you. (longboat and drawings used with permission of THMP. Original source, Graham Westbrook)


Also included at the top of the page is an image to give you an idea of where the build is at the current time. The blue lines show the completed sections of the build, Sternpost, deadwood etc. Those of you with a keen eye will have spotted a green circle as well. The circle shows what is currently being worked on. More of that in the next post, but here (thanks to Chris Conway for the pic) is a taster..  Content: James Kelly. Images: HMP


The visitor centre opens!

It’s been a little hectic at The Mayflower Project lately as they rush to get the visitor centre open in time for this weekend’s  Harwich Sea Festival & Lifeboat day.  While the finishing touches were being added, a group of visitors from Tampa in Florida arrived. They were shown around the build and then became the first visitors to look around the new visitor centre. I was there taking photos and I have to say, they were lovely people, especially the lady that presented me with a “Hug Licence”.   I took several photographs and they kindly allowed us to use some here on the blog.

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If you’d like to visit The Mayflower Project, they’re open between 9am and 5pm. Visitors are warmly welcomed and get a guided tour of the build site as well as an up close and personal tour of the Mayflower, as she rises from the English oak in the yard where the project is housed. I’ve been there several times over the past few weeks and I’m still enthralled by the sight of  the keel and the sternpost, that in just a few short years will be in the water and making regular trips to the USA. If you want to see the Mayflower at the early stages of it’s build, why not pay them a visit. I’m sure they’d love to see you and you may even get your picture on the ship’s blog! Photograph and content: James Kelly.

The Pole-Lathe

If you’re following this blog, or even just popping in now and again to follow the progress of the Harwich Mayflower, you’re in a very privileged position.  You are lucky enough to be able to see how the Mayflower was built and watch as the shipwrights from the ship’s original home port, build the ship from old English oak using traditional methods where available. It’s one of those traditional methods that I’m going to focus on in this post.

You’re probably wondering what the shipwrights and carpenters building the Mayflower get up to when they’re not  working on the ship. Well, they work on making tools to help with the build!  A few days ago, I asked if there was anything that I could take pics of and was shown a pole-lathe that had been hand built by one of the guys working on the build.

A pole lathe is a wood-turning lathe that uses a long pole as a return spring for a treadle. Pressing the treadle with your foot pulls on a cord that is wrapped around the piece of wood being turned. The other end of the cord reaches up to the end of a long springy pole. As the action is reciprocating, the work rotates in one direction and then back the other way. Turning is only carried out on the down stroke of the treadle, the spring of the pole only being sufficient to return the treadle to the raised position ready for the next down stroke. Modern pole lathes often replace the springy pole with an elastic bungee cord.  [Wikipedia] Photography and content: James kelly.  Pole-lathe built by Tony Wilding.

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If you’re going to make a pole-lathe, then you’re going to need to make some chisels as well. The picture below shows some cold forged chisels made to work on the pole-lathe. In an age when people are straining to get the latest iphone or play the latest xbox or play station and where children are forgetting how to climb trees, I think it’s amazing that there are still craftsmen around that have a skill they can pass on. Not only that, but a skill that built The Mayflower and will build it again.

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The Forward Keel

After several posts that gave you a little insight into the background of the Harwich Mayflower project, I think it’s time we got back on course with the actual build of the ship. While the keel itself remains covered up to protect against the unusual heat of an English summer, the Shipwrights are busy working on other sections of the keel.

The Forward keel is currently being cut and shaped and will eventually be joined to the keel with a scarf (scarph) joint, which was described in an earlier post. The pictures below show a 2 ton piece of  English oak as it sits on the bandsaw, partially cut and waiting to be finished to match the template which can be seen sitting atop of the oak. The forward keel  will eventually be worked on to finish with an upturn at the front end. You’ll be getting more pics as this piece of the Mayflower progresses.

My next post will show you some of the tools and instruments being used to build this ship and will include a lathe powered by human muscle and not electricity! Photography and content: James Kelly.


The forward keel. Two tons of English oak.

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Now that I’m up to date on the happenings at the Project, I thought I’d take some time to post a few extra pics and a little info. For those of you interested, and I know there’s at least one, all the photographs in this blog were taken on  a Canon EOS 600D with an 18-135 EFS lens.  I try to take pictures that give you a feel for the project and the people working on it. Hopefully I’ve managed that and you’re enjoying the blog and the hard work of all those involved at the Project. That reminds me, I really need to get a group shot of all the staff for you.

I also want to thank everyone at the Harwich Mayflower Project for their help and for giving me complete access to all the areas of the project so I can get pictures for you. I was expecting a few murmurs of discontent as I wandered around the yard, poking my camera in peoples faces and asking if I could take pics, but everyone was happy to help out and no one  objected to my snapping away. I did expect a few people to moan about not having their makeup on (and that was only the shipwrights!) but they are all fantastic and always willing to help in whatever way they can. The shipwrights will always take time to explain to me exactly what they are doing and go over any shipbuilding terms that I’m not familiar with. Thanks guys (and girls) without your co-operation and good natured help, I wouldn’t be able to do this blog.

If you’re a photographer, you’ll know that you may need to take dozens of pictures to get that one special photograph. I’ve taken hundreds of photographs at the Project and while they’re more snapshots than anything else, I’ve decided to put a few up here that haven’t made previous posts.

The images below are a gallery, clicking any one will open a slideshow. Photography and content: James Kelly.