By Cheryl Costello
After five years of planning, plus $5 million in funding the research and building, the new historical interpretation of the Maryland Dove was officially lowered into the water by crane. It’s one of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s largest projects ever, with nearly two dozen employees taking part in construction at their working shipyard.
Bay Bulletin was there as the Dove was splashed in the Miles River and got to peek inside the historic reproduction.
A crane company secured the special ship with straps Monday morning, then lifted it into the air and placed it in the water CBMM in St. Michaels.
This ship represents one of the ships that brought the first European settlers to Maryland in 1634.
Talks began in 2017 between the museum and the owners of the current Dove, the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission, to replace the existing reproduction, which is more than 40 years old itself.
“This one is now based on historic research over the past 20 to 25 years,” explains CBMM President and CEO Kristen Greenaway. “We’ve been working with the Vasa Museum and all the research, the diving they’ve done over the last 20 to 25 years with vessels they’ve found, shipwrecks they’ve found in the Baltic.”
Shipwrights from CBMM traveled to Sweden and Denmark for advice on crafting the Dove with utmost historical accuracy.
Of the 70 staff at the museum, more than 20 were assigned to the ship during the construction, along with volunteers. The pandemic was a setback with time and some materials. But now the ship is in the water.
“We hope more people will want to come see the Dove. But it also means we can take it out more safely. The first was a dockside exhibit. So this will actually be certified by the Coast Guard to take passengers,” says Historic St. Mary’s City Commission Executive Director Regina Faden.
As the Dove was splashed, those who worked on the ship couldn’t contain their pride. Mechanic Josh Richardson brought his family to see the milestone.
“It’s really exciting for me, as well as my wife, to see him [their young son Shepherd] see the boat get launched.” Young Shepherd pointed to the ship and his father: “He made it.”
Josh’s wife Meghan Richardson says of the mechanic’s contributions to the ship, “I think he’ll remember it forever—to see the ship and to know his dad was a part of it. We’ll see it in the paper, we’ll see it all over, people being talked about in this small town.”
Shipwright Spencer Sherwood feels the same pride. “For the people working on it, you really feel like it’s tangible progress.”
The new Dove is about the same size as the current reproduction, which was built just a bit further south in Cambridge. The new one will have two masts instead of three, to be more historically accurate and will welcome people with mobility issues to come aboard.
Sherwood showed us around the boat, pointing out where the binnacle, navigation systems, radar and throttle will be located. Now that the ship is in the water, the interior will be finished, engines installed and rigging placed.
It’s expected to head to Historic St. Mary’s City at the end of May, where it will mark a turning point in Maryland’s historical representation.
“The cost of repairs to the current ship is more expensive than creating a new one and starting from there. So this ship is replacing it. We will not have two ships on site after a year,” says Peter Friesen, Director of Education for Historic St. Mary’s City.
Both St. Mary’s and CBMM leaders look forward to the experiences the new Dove will offer to the public later this year.
“It means you can actually use it as a tool. You can have your education programming with K-12 and adults going out on the vessel and really creating an experience,” says Greenaway.