CBMM crosses the Atlantic to preserve shipbuilding techniques

Shipwrights from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md., have gone international in their efforts to ensure the construction of a historically accurate and truly authentic new Maryland Dove.

In October 2019, CBMM’s Lead Shipwright Joe Connor and Rigger Sam Hilgartner traveled overseas to learn from professional boatbuilders at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, and from Director of Research Fred Hocker at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. On the trip, the pair was able to pick up traditional boatbuilding skills used 1,000 years ago and confirm they were historically accurate in their construction of the newest representation of the vessel that accompanied the first European settlers to Maryland in 1634. The trip was jointly funded by CBMM and the Vasa Museum, a partner in the build, whose research on 17th century ships is helping to inform the design of the new Maryland Dove.

“We think about transferring skills and lessons from boats that were built in the 18th and 19th century, but here we’ve been able to learn about shipbuilding dating back to 800–900 AD and inspect a ship built in the 1600s,” Connor said. “It’s been incredible to be able to learn from these institutions and bring those lessons back to share with our shipwrights, apprentices and guests, and to apply them in real-time as we continue working on the new Maryland Dove.”

Post-trip, CBMM created and released a YouTube series of eight episodes documenting “Sam & Joe’s Excellent Adventure.” Through photos, footage of experiences like sailing a replica Viking ship, and un-scripted recaps of their day, the pair brings viewers of all ages along on a light-hearted overseas journey that combines fun and education on boatbuilding and historic ship design.

These episodes are an opportunity for CBMM shipwrights to show the world how the importance of passing down old-world skills and knowledge in boatbuilding is just as important as the build itself. The full series, which has reached more than 50,000 viewers on social media, can be found on CBMM’s YouTube page at youtube.com/CBMMorg1965.

Maryland Dove is owned by the state of Maryland and operated and maintained by the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission. Its successor is under construction at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum from now through late 2021, with all work done in full public view. To follow along with the project online, visit marylanddove.org.

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