‘Dove’ visits on 40th anniversary

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan Crew member Jeremy Heveron, barefoot and in baggy breeches, spoke to visitors about trade goods and a sailor’s life at sea in the 17th century.

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Crew member Jeremy Heveron, barefoot and in baggy breeches, spoke to visitors about trade goods and a sailor’s life at sea in the 17th century.

CAMBRIDGE – Mr. Jim would be proud.

Jim Richardson’s creation, the “Maryland Dove,” sailed into the Creek on Saturday, in honor of of her launch on Aug. 14, 1978. The vessel is a near-replica of the original “Dove,” which sailed to the New World in 1634 with the “Ark.” The two ships brought Maryland’s first English settlers and their supplies to St. Mary’s City in St. Mary’s County.

“This is the 40th anniversary of her launch and outfitting,” Master Will Gates said. Mr. Gates is not only master – not captain, that’s a military rank – of the ship, he is also maritime curator of Historic St. Mary’s City.

He and other crew members were dressed in period clothing appropriate to 17th-century sailors, as they welcomed tourists aboard the ship. Mr. Gates said in the absence of original plans, the ship was contructed to the same size as the first “Dove,” and in the style of a merchant ship of the day.

That gives her an overall length of 76 feet, with 20 feet less deck length. The beam overall is 17 feet, and the ship has a displacement of 42 tons. Her approximate sail area is 1,965 square feet.

“She is a floating classroom,” Mr. Gates said, adding that school groups often tour the ship.

In 1977, Mr. Richardson was coaxed out of retirement – he was already in his 70s – to build the ship according to a design by William Avery Baker of Hingham, Massachusetts.

“A lifelong resident of the Eastern Shore, Mr. Richardson came from a long line of shipwrights,” the website of Historic St. Mary’s City says. “He and five assistants worked for 15 months on the ‘Maryland Dove’ at his boatyard off the Choptank River on Lecompte Creek.”

During the voyage in 1634, the “Dove” traveled with the “Ark,” which was 10 times her size. While the smaller ship had a crew of seven, she carried only cargo. The larger ship had 140 passengers listed, though historians believe as many as 20 more were aboard, who chose not to record their names. A crew of about 40 sailed her.

Regardless of which one passengers or crew were aboard, conditions were crowded and dangerous. Chances were high in those days of death or disease on the way to the promises of a better life in America.

Below deck on Saturday, crew member Jeremy Heveron spoke to visitors. Sporting a beard and long hair under a bandana, and wearing a loose shirt and short, baggy britches, the sailor looked the part of a 17th-century mariner.

As an example of what a sailor could expect in 1634, he pointed to a small, wooden cask in which salted meat or fish would have been kept. Once the cask was opened, that’s what the sailors would eat – breakfast, lunch and dinner – until it was gone.

Above, at the bow, Grayson McNew demonstrated the simple but effective navigational tools of the day, including a traverse board for keeping track of course and speed. Readings would be taken every 30 minutes, and marked on the board with small pegs, a clever system at a time when probably only the ship’s master could read and write.

The “Maryland Dove” is owned by the state and is maintained by the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission. She has been used in several promotional and feature films.
Mr. Richardson, who died in 1991, was known for his knowledge and practice of traditional boatbuilding techniques. “Not only did he have the ability to learn a variety of skills and techniques, but he was able to teach them to others,” a statement on the website of the Richardson Maritime Museum says.

After his death, the museum in Cambridge was established in his name, as a way to commemorate and document the boatbuilding industry and its craftsmen.
To learn more about the Richardson Maritime Museum, visit www.richardsonmuseum.org. To learn more about the “Maryland Dove” and Historic St. Mary’s City, visit www.hsmcdigshistory.org.

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