In an open boat shed, with the blue-green waters of Boothbay Harbor shimmering outside, a wooden structure with the mass of a whale's rib cage and the intricacy of a New England church rises toward the ceiling.
Forty-four miles down the Maine coast from where the Godspeed awaits its launch, the shipwrights at Boothbay Harbor Shipyard have pieced together the skeleton of Godspeed's future fleet mate, the Discovery. Both ships will play a key role in the Jamestown 2007 events and then will be kept at Jamestown Settlement.
Based on the smallest of the three ships that carried English settlers to Jamestown, the new Discovery, like the new Godspeed, represents advances in research and technique that make it more historically accurate, more seaworthy and less trouble to maintain.
But to the boatbuilders in the shed at Boothbay Harbor, it represents a unique challenge and a humbling opportunity.
"I've never done a 1607 (-era ship)," said Pete Johnson, the project's lead shipwright, who has been building wooden boats for 30 years. "My (teacher) was Welsh, and he said the stuff I'm teaching you is 400 years old."
Johnson remembered that when he got into the detail work of the project, and found those techniques he had learned remarkably suited to the job.
"It fits," he said. "Exactly."
Standing on scaffolding behind Johnson, Jimmy Jones demonstrated that just by going through a regular day's work.
Using an adze - a hand tool that vaguely resembles an axe - Jones skimmed away paper-thin curls of Angelique wood from a rib, "fairing" it so that the curved planking near the bow would fit right against the frame.
Jones then bent a flexible piece of wood against several ribs to make sure the curve was fair, finishing a job that helps make the ship watertight with only a hand tool, a stick and a good set of eyeballs.
Boothbay Harbor Shipyard expects to deliver the $2 million ship to Jamestown by February 2007 - in time for many of the anniversary events. Unlike the current Discovery replica, which does not have engines and has rarely left Jamestown, this ship is built to sail.
The 88-foot-long two-masted bark is longer than the current replica by about 17 feet, and its beam (the width) is 14 feet, providing an additional three feet. Like the new Godspeed, it is being built of South American hardwoods - "jungle wood," Johnson calls it - that better resist the fungal rot destroying the current ships.
Massive pieces of the wood lie around the Boothbay Harbor shed.
Some, a third of the ship's length, stretch out across multiple sawhorses as workers refine the piece's joints. All of it came from the same supplier- the country of Suriname - that provided the wood for the Godspeed.
Ordering it required a meticulously prepared materials list, said yard manager David Stimson.
"Order twice as much as you need and maybe you'll have some left over," he joked.
The Discovery is one of several major projects Stimson - whose brother worked for a small yard in Deltaville decades ago - is overseeing right now. Later this year, Boothbay Harbor Shipyard will welcome for an overhaul the more than 40-year-old replica of the H.M.S. Bounty that was used in the 1962 Marlon Brando film, "Mutiny on the Bounty."
Projects like these come to the shipyards in Maine because it's one of the few places with the skilled craftsman to pull off the work, said Eric Speth, maritime program manager of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
"It's just understood in the wooden boat community that Maine is the place to go," Speth said.
"And it's been that way a long time," Stimson added. "One hundred, 150 years ago it was the same thing."
The fact isn't lost on the 10-man crew building the ship. Johnson described it as a "privilege" to even work on the project.
"I keep telling these guys," he said, "you're lucky to be here."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times