maryland doveSt. Mary’s City, MD – The Maryland Dove isn’t what you think she is. Heck, she isn’t even what you thought she was.

Constructed in 1977 as a facsimile to the pinnace that accompanied the Ark to Maryland in 1634, the Maryland Dove has been a popular stop for visitors to Historic St. Mary’s City. Now as a new replica is planned for construction at St. Michael’s Maritime Museum on the Eastern Shore, we’re finding out that the boat at the historic site isn’t at all what the original may have looked like.

“Unlike this ship, she probably was not a three-masted, square-rigged vessel, but had a square topsail and a big in-sail,” said Dove Mate and Site Supervisor Joseph Greeley. “Back then, the museum really wanted a bigger ship.”

According to Father Andrew White’s Brief Narrative written in 1633-34, the Dove was a 40-ton vessel. The recreated Dove, designed by the late William Avery Baker of Hingham, MA and constructed by James B. Richardson of Cambridge, is 42 tons. And she’s seen better days.

“She’s got rot in her from stem to stern,” Greeley lamented. “Plus, there was a rush back then to get the ship constructed by deadline, so Mr. Richardson used galvanized bolts. Down in the hold, it’s just a big old ring of rust.

“We’ve been talking about replacing the Dove for over 10 years,” he added. “We’ve always known it would not last forever. When we begin construction, it will probably have a fore and aft rig, which doesn’t need as big of a crew to sail.”

There has also been a misconception as to what the Dove’s purpose was, Greeley explained.

“For years, everybody thought the Dove was a supply ship to the Ark,” he said. “We know now that probably wasn’t the case. I don’t think she was carrying anything at all other than ballast. She certainly was not carrying supplies. She was presumed lost two days out of England. They were ten miles off the coast. If the Dove was carrying all their supplies, they would have turned around and re-provisioned.

“The Ark was 400 tons,” Greeley added. “She was certainly capable of carrying the colonists and everything they needed.”

He said the Dove was intended to be an all-purpose exploring ship once colonists reached Maryland.

Greeley noted that once the new ship is ready, the Dove will be decommissioned. He said they will probably be able to salvage the rigging and masts, which are still in good shape. The rest he said, is in poor shape. The actual time table has not yet been established.

The legislature issued a $500,000 bond bill for start-up funds.

“We’re still working with the state to determine how that will be administered,” said Dove Captain Will Gates. “I’ve been telling the commission that if we don’t get going soon, we risk loss of service.”

The ideal timetable would be to begin construction in 2019 with a target completion date of 2021. The Southern Maryland and Eastern Shore legislative delegations are excited about the prospect, Gates said, because it could mesh together programs and opportunities on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay.

“That’s one driving component,” he added.

“I’m going to miss her,” Greeley said of the current ship. “Even though she’s not accurate to the original, she is a good ship. I’ve been here for about 17 years. I’m going to miss having her under my feet.”

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com