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.
As a rainy British summer gives way to a rainy British autumn, work on the build of the Mayflower seems to have slowed down. But of course it hasn’t, while the build itself may not seem to have changed too much over several weeks, the shipwrights have been busy behind the scenes preparing to make a start on the transom (the rear of the ship). So I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you a pic of the build as it is at the moment, as well as the latest in a series of murals which will decorate the walls of the Mayflower Project.
For anyone reading this that has visited the project, if you take a close look at the second mural, you may recognise several of the shipwrights/carpenters that are currently working on the Mayflower (Chris, Brett, Natasha and Tony). The murals contain several lines of a poem by John Masefield and were made possible thanks to various volunteers and organisations. Further information on the murals is available on the Project’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Photography and content: James Kelly.
Strangely enough for a British summer, the weather recently has been dry and sunny. Although a little bit of rain doesn’t stop the shipwrights, it’s obviously easier to work on a nice sunny day. So as you can imagine, it’s been a busy time at the Mayflower Project recently and my camera has been working overtime getting pictures for you. I was sitting in the office recently, uploading a few images and checking websites, when someone ran in and said “They’re putting the deadwood on!” I rushed out, and sure enough the deadwood was being expertly lowered onto the keel. I grabbed my camera and started clicking away. The results are below and as you can see, the backbone of the Mayflower is taking shape. Another bonus of a sunny day, is the covers coming off the keel to allow you to see the build so far in all it’s glory. Photography and content: James kelly.
I decided to take another trip to the Mayflower project today in the hope of getting a look around and taking some pictures of the build. As I spied a long rectangular object resting on some railway sleepers, one of my first questions as I walked around the yard surrounded by old English Oak was, “what’s under that tarpaulin?” I was told it was the keel of the ship and soon there would be ribs spreading out from it “Like a venus flytrap”. Although covered to protect it from the rain of a typical British summer, I was told that the keel was in fact made from two lengths of wood joined together. Being inquisitive, i asked if I could see the join. This is a scarf (scarph) joint. Basically this joint is used when the wood is not available in the length required. I’ve included a diagram to show the joint a little clearer, but if you look closely at my pictures, you can see the diagonal join on the two pieces of wood that make up the keel.
Preparing for the sternpost
One of my earlier entries showed the sternpost and described how it would fit into the keel with a mortise and tenon joint. Today, I managed to take some pictures as one of the apprentices worked on the keel, preparing the slot (mortise) for the sternpost to fit into. The apprentice would have first drilled several holes into the wood using a drill and wood bit, before using a chisel (as seen in the pictures) to remove the remaining wood to get the tenon to the correct size, ready for the sternpost to be placed into it. My next post will show more pictures of the keel and hopefully, the sternpost will be in place as well. Phootgraphy and content: James Kelly.
As the Mayflower build progresses, I know a lot of you are looking forward to seeing the ship start to take shape. Well, this is the first of several posts that will show you the pieces all coming together. The shipwrights continue to work hard in all weathers to build the Mayflower and the latest part to take shape is the Deadwood. The Deadwood is placed at the stern of the ship, on top of the keel to add strength.
In the pictures above, you can see the shipwright shaping the deadwood using an adze. This is a tool that has been found to date back to the stone age and is used for shaping or smoothing wood. Those of you with a keen eye may have spotted a little something in the background….. The Keel!! photography and content: James Kelly.
Today I took a look around the Mayflower project and thought it would be nice to give you a little look at a few things surrounding the actual build.
When I first arrived at the Project, the one thing to catch my eye was an old builders hut. It looked derelict and I assumed it was probably waiting to be pulled down (before it fell down). On closer inspection I saw a sign in one of the cracked windows “Visitor centre. Coming soon”. Visitor centre? It looked like the only thing holding it together were the cobwebs! It had no electricity to it and I had no camera to take photos. But a few weeks later I managed take a few pics. A few days ago when it had been cleaned up a little, I took the latest photo. As you can see, it’s well on the way to becoming a multimedia visitor centre for the Mayflower Project.
After a walk around the yard and a few more pics of the dozens of English oak trees laying around, I met a gentleman called Sean Day, who told me that for every single tree cut down, they plant approx. 100 in its place. I was invited to have a look inside the main building. There were several models of the Mayflower around and I was also shown the lofting floor. If you’re unsure of what ‘lofting’ is, it’s a drafting technique and is basically the transfer of a scaled down drawing of a plan to a life size version. The picture below shows the lofting floor of the Mayflower Project, with several life-sized plywood templates laid out on it. These templates will allow the shipwright to get the correct size and dimensions when cutting the timber for the ship.
Although Sean is a very busy man, he spent as much time as he could, showing me around the project and answering all my questions. If a boat could be floated just on pure energy and enthusiasm, I have no doubt that Sean would have the Mayflower in the water tomorrow. As it is, when he says the Mayflower will be ready by 2016, it will. I’ll hopefully be able to be there most of the way (if they’ll allow me) and give those of you who cannot come along to see this wonderful ship being built, a glimpse of the Mayflower as she rises from the old English Oak in the disused railway yard that houses the project. Photography and content: James Kelly.
I ventured back to the Mayflower Project today and was lucky enough to see the shipwright and an apprentice working on the Sternpost. The sternpost is fashioned from a single piece of English oak that was sourced from Cornwall in the South West of England. For those of you (like myself) that are not too familiar with ship building or its terms, the sternpost is an upright support that fits into the keel at the tail-end of the ship. Again, if you can’t quite visualise that or are still unsure where this will end up, here’s an image that should be of help. Please note, this image is a generalisation and not an indication of the finished ship.
You can see from the image that the sternpost will eventually be fitted upright into the keel. A slot will be cut into the keel and the sternpost will be placed into it using a mortise and tenon joint.
This type of mortise and tenon joint is probably the same joint used by the original shipbuilders on the Mayflower. The picture above shows the shipwright and the apprentice chiseling away at the stub to get it to the correct dimensions to fit the slot in the keel.
I spent some time wandering around the site, taking a few more pictures of the oak trees being cut into planks, ready for use on the ship
Well that’s the latest update for you. I’m hoping to have another post up within the next week. Photography and content: James Kelly.
I know there may be people following this blog that will think “planks?” But, cutting the oak tress and making them into planks is the basic element of building the Mayflower and as such I think it would be interesting for you to see this process. This is the very beginning of the building of The Harwich Mayflower.
Today I arrived at the project to see one of the workers cutting up some of the old English oak into planks for the ship. The Mayflower Project is housed in an old disused railway yard in Harwich and as you may have seen in an earlier post, dozens of tons of oak are stored on site, ready to be cut and planed to become parts of the ship.
The tree is moved from storage and placed on the bandsaw ready for cutting. Once the oak is secured, the bandsaw is pushed through the trunk.
If you look to the left of this image, you can see the horizontal blade of the bandsaw as it slices through the tree trunk.
Once the tree has been cut, it is checked before the bandsaw is lowered by several inches (depending on the size required) and the process begins again, giving several planks that will end up being part of the Mayflower.
I’m hoping that on my next visit I’ll be able to see some specific parts of the ship as they are worked on. Photography and content: James kelly.
On September 6th/16th 1620 The Mayflower set sail for the New World. After a series of setbacks and having to return to land twice, their final port of call was Plymouth… and the rest as they say, is history.
Now nearly 400 years later, The Mayflower project, based in Harwich (the birth place of the ship’s captain, Christopher Jones and the place the Mayflower was arguably originally built) is building a life size replica of the Mayflower, to be ready before 2020 to set sail once again for the New World.
As a resident of Harwich and with a keen interest in all things Anglo/American, I am going to try and document the build of the ship, from now until the day it sets sail. I shall use this blog to show you pictures of the build and its progress, as and when I can get access.
Today I spoke with someone at the Mayflower Project about my intention to document the build and keep regular records of it’s progress. Unfortunately I was unable to be shown around the actual site of the build which is still in its early stages (dozens of old oak trees litter the yard waiting to be cut and sawn into planks for the build). But I was told to come back in a few weeks when I should be able to take some photographs of the interior and any progress on the actual build.
I intend this to be a very photographic blog and I will hopefully be able to get updates about the build and any information surrounding it to you as often as I can. Photography and content: James kelly.
Further info on The Mayflower Project can be found on the BBC news site here
A video describing the project, again from the BBC can be found here