Setting Sail for the Past
Three Reproductions of 17th-Century Tall Ships — Godspeed, Susan Constant and Discovery — Prepare to Re-Create a Portion of the Journey That Brought English Colonists to Jamestown
JAMESTOWN, Va. — “Let’s lay aloft and loose all sails!” This sends Susan Harris clambering up the rigging that stretches like a giant spiderweb from the deck almost to the top of the ship’s 72-foot mast.
Hand over sneaker she goes to the yardarm, then inches oh-so-carefully sideways until she is standing on a thin rope five stories above the James River. Cord by cord, Harris loosens the mainsail until the great white sheet bellies out with the breeze.
Off it goes, the Godspeed, borne by the wind into another time, 400 years ago.
“I just love it up there,” Harris says back on deck. She is no younker, as the young seamen who climbed the rigging were known long ago. At 59, Harris is a new grandmother.
The former ice skating instructor from Williamsburg is one of 60 volunteer sailors who are re-creating the majestic voyage of three tall-masted ships to mark the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English colony in the New World.
By Thursday, the Godspeed and two other 17th-century reproductions will set sail to Cape Henry, off Virginia Beach, to commemorate the colonists’ landfall there April 26, 1607. The Godspeed will then embark on a month-long Journey Up the James, visiting Hampton, Newport News and Claremont before returning here for Anniversary Weekend, a multimillion-dollar celebration from May 11 to 13. Afterward, the journey will continue to Henricus and Richmond. Each stop will feature tours of the ship.
One thing is certain: This trip will be easier than the first one.
Although the three original ships — the Godspeed, the Susan Constant and the Discovery — are nowhere near as famous as Christopher Colum-
Tony Flores, left, and Steve Link learn the fine points of running the Godspeed, a 17th-century reproduction and one of three ships that will set sail Thursday to Cape Henry, off Virginia Beach, to commemorate the colonists’ landfall April 26, 1607. The Godspeed will then embark on a month-long Journey Up the James.