BATH, Maine — By definition, a ship is designed to handle a little water, but the organization that’s recreating the first sailing vessel ever built in Maine is scrambling to rebuild the project’s shelter after it was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
Maine’s First Ship is in the midst of a years-long quest to replicate — as close as possible — the pinnace Virginia, which was built in 1607 at the Popham Colony. Unfortunately for Maine’s standing in the annals of American history, the reason the settlers built the ship was to abandon the colony. As a result, Jamestown, Va., which was settled in the same year as the Popham Colony, became the true cradle of North American civilization.
The Virginia is being built on the grounds of the historic Bath Freight Shed on the shore of the Kennebec River in downtown Bath. Though it’s still in the early stages, the project was housed in a temporary, wood-and-plastic enclosure. Orman Hines, president of Maine’s First Ship, said volunteers monitored the structure as shrieking wind gusts from Sandy pounded away on Monday, Oct. 29. At about midnight someone noticed it wasn’t shaped quite right. Tuesday morning they found that the enclosure had been ripped from its foundation and that 30 of the 40 wooden bents that supported it were cracked and splintered.
At a time when the organization wants to focus its resources on the task of rebuilding the Virginia, instead they find themselves devoting money and volunteer hours to rebuilding the enclosure. That will cost about $4,000, though Bath-area residents have already chipped in about $3,000 of that sum — including $2,000 from an anonymous donor.
“The community has been very generous,” said Hines, who added that the money is being put to good use. The new enclosure will be built for harsher weather.