'No chance' of Mayflower sailing back to home port
The Mayflower II, a replica of the ship that sailed the Pilgrims from the Westcountry to the New World, is shipshape for the 400th anniversary of the original – but she is unlikely to be making the journey home for the celebrations.
The historic ship this week made her first sailing – from a dry dock in Fairhaven, Massachusetts to Plymouth Rock – after getting the first repairs in a seven-year effort to prepare her for the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower's 1620 voyage.
However, the American owners of Mayflower II, which was built in Brixham, have told the people of the South Devon town that the ship is not seaworthy enough to make the voyage across the Atlantic in time for the English celebrations. The owners, Plimoth Plantation, based in Plymouth, Massachusetts, believe it would be almost impossible to sail the 1956 vessel across the Atlantic back to Brixham.
Brixham's neighbours in Plymouth, UK, are planning the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers' crossing from one Plymouth to the other. Brixham is keen to see the boat return to where it was built and share in the glory.
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Both Plymouths are planning a series of international events for the 2020 anniversary.
In a letter to the Plimoth Plantation, Lesley Smith, from the Brixham Heritage Museum, said: "The Mayflower II was actually built here in Brixham and our museum features many pictures of its construction by traditional methods and a model of it. There is at least one surviving shipwright and descendants of the builders, together with many people here in Brixham who have memories of its construction. Do you think it is possible that, during the visit of Mayflower II to Plymouth, it might also call into Torbay for a day or two?"
The replica was built at the Upham's Yard in Brixham between 1955 and 1956. It sailed across the Atlantic the following year and has been berthed in Plymouth Massachusetts where it was turned into a permanent museum.
Ellie Donovan, executive director of the Plimoth Plantation, said sailing the Mayflower home had been one of the ideas between the two Plymouths when representatives met recently.
She said: "Although it's inspiring to think of Mayflower II visiting her original port in England, I'm sorry to say that the idea of our mutually- beloved ship leaving Plymouth, Massachusetts, for a trans-Atlantic voyage is definitely not in any of our plans. While the thought of a Mayflower II voyage to England and back to Massachusetts is exciting to imagine, it is not something we can seriously consider."