Bath New Year's Eve auction to benefit colonial ship replica

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BATH — The pinnace Virginia faced a harsh winter on the shores of the Kennebec River in 1607-1608, but builders of the ship’s replica are hopeful that funds for that project will flow as 2014 becomes 2015.

The Maine’s First Ship group, which has been raising funds to reconstruct the 51-foot pinnace – the first European ship built in New England – will hold a fundraising auction on New Year’s Eve, Wednesday, Dec. 31, from 6-10 p.m. The event will be held at the Virginia’s shipyard at the 19th-century Bath Freight Shed, 27 Commercial St.

The party will include a bonfire on the Kennebec River, music and light refreshments. A silent auction will run from 6-9 p.m., and a live auction from 8-9 p.m. Tickets are $20, and can be purchased at the door, or by calling Maine’s First Ship at 443-4242, or at the Bath Farmer’s Market Saturday morning at the Freight Shed.

MFS Treasurer Gayla Teague said via email Dec. 17 that fundraising has been picking up, and that 17 new businesses have signed up for the group’s 2014-2016 campaign.

The group would like to raise $1,000 at the New Year’s Eve event, and seeks more nautical-related items – including paintings, china, prints and memorabilia – for its auction selection, Teague said. Donors will receive tax receipts for the value of the items.

As of the end of 2013 the Virginia had an asset value of $130,000, which included materials purchased and installed on the vessel, Teague said in August. An additional $450,000 in materials, aided by volunteer labor, could be needed to complete the work, Teague had said.

The original Popham colony – named for the venture’s financier, Sir John Popham – was a partner endeavor with the better-known Jamestown colony in Virginia.

Popham lasted a little more than a year, defeated by a harsh winter and Popham’s death. Besides the Virginia, which returned many surviving colonists to England, the colonists also built the walled settlement called Fort St. George.

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Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.