One of the pine trees uprooted on the Bowdoin campus during last October’s windstorm is set to become the main mast on the replica of a historic wooden sailing vessel. Volunteers in Bath, Maine are working on a replica of the Virginia, a fifty-one-foot pinnace built by English settlers in 1607. The settlers lived at Popham Colony near Bath, and although the colony didn’t survive, the Virginia went on to sail the Atlantic twice, ending up in Jamestown, Virginia, where the first English colony was established thirteen years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.
The replica is being built by a group called Maine’s First Ship, an educational nonprofit based in Bath dedicated to reconstructing the Virginia—the first English ship to be built in America—to near its original size. One of the group’s volunteers was on the Bowdoin campus shortly after the storm of October 2017 and, noticing a number of downed pine trees, thought one of them would make a good mast for the vessel. College officials approved the donation, and the tree is now in the boatyard being turned into a mast by a team of expert craftsmen.
“This tree, as many of them are at Bowdoin, is tall and straight—two very important characteristics of a mast tree—and has very few knots,” said Allison Hepler of Maine’s First Ship. “Furthermore,” she added, “as a historian, I love the history of Maine that is associated with trees like these: tall white pines for the King’s Navy, one of the reasons for English settlement here.” The replica of the Virginia is due to be launched in June 2020.