Bath women's colonial shipbuilding day returns Nov. 6

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BATH — It may have been men that built the original Virginia vessel, but next weekend it’ll be all women taking a hand in its reconstruction.

The third annual Women’s Shipbuilding Day, held at the 19th century Bath Freight Shed at 27 Commercial St., takes place Sunday, Nov. 6, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event is part of a long, ongoing effort by the Maine’s First Ship organization to reconstruct the Virginia, a small ship built at the ill-fated Popham Colony in 1607-08.

Members of the group, which could always use more volunteers, noticed a few years ago that much of the workforce was comprised of “white guys with beards,” Allison Hepler of Woolwich – a volunteer with Maine’s First Ship and wife of MFS shipwright Rob Stevens – said in an interview Oct. 21.

“It’s just a different way of trying to recruit people,” she said.

The first event drew folks like Gail Smith, a retired emergency medical technician from Topsham who Stevens called “our best volunteer, but don’t tell the guys that” in an MFS press release.

Volunteers show up Wednesdays and Saturdays year-round to help build the vessel, which is more than half complete. The finished product will be available for environmental and educational programs.

A group of young female rugby players are among the Women’s Shipbuilding Day complement, Hepler said. Isabella Pierson, a graduate of the “Apprenticeshop” program in Rockland who now makes furniture and teaches woodworking and design, will join Stevens in this year’s program.

Built at Fort St. George, at the mouth of the Kennebec River, the Virginia was the first European ship constructed in New England.

A harsh winter on the shores of the Kennebec helped bring the Popham Colony, part of what is now Phippsburg, to an early end. The settlement was named for the venture’s financier, Sir John Popham, who was a partner of the better-known Jamestown colony endeavor in Virginia.

The pinnace later brought many surviving colonists back to England, then returned to the New World in 1609 to resupply Jamestown, according to Maine’s First Ship.

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

A volunteer helps out during a Women’s Shipbuilding Day event at the Bath Freight Shed. The third annual event, geared around reconstruction of the 17th century pinnace Virginia, takes place Sunday, Nov. 6.

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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.