BATH — Maine’s First Ship needs about $100,000 more to realize its June goal of launching the Virginia, a reconstruction of the 30-ton sailing vessel of the same name built more than 400 years ago down the Kennebec River at Popham Colony.

To do that, the Bath-based organization may need to draw from its endowment, something it is due to decide this month, Maine’s First Ship President Orman Hines said Monday.

Volunteers with Maine’s First Ship are working hard to get the Virginia, the reconstruction of an early 17th century pinnace, ready for launch this June. Courtesy Maine’s First Ship

The fund, dedicated for future maintenance and operation of the 53-foot pinnace but also available for more immediate needs, has about $200,000 in it, and an ultimate goal of $300,000, Hines said. The fund recently benefited from a $50,000 donation by Bob and Diane Weggel of Bailey’s Island, which is part of their ultimate $250,000 total pledge. The Weggels could not be reached for comment.

Diane Weggel is a cousin of the late Jane Stevens, who co-founded MFS in her living room in 1997. Her Phippsburg house sat next to the site of Fort St. George, where the original Virginia was built in 1607-08, according to MFS secretary Allison Hepler.

“We’ve got some big things to do this year,” including the purchase of a $39,000 lead shoe, which goes underneath the keel and serves as ballast to keep the ship upright, along with a $30,000 motor, Hines said.

“A lot of the work we can do as volunteers,” such as installing the motor, he added. “… We’ve been very fortunate that our labor costs have been very low.”

On top of the $100,000 needed to launch this June, Maine’s First Ship also needs to find a place to outfit the vessel and a wharf at which to do that could cost about $130,000. “We still need to raise money for that, or find a place locally to do the outfitting,” Hines said.

The organization would like eventually to buy the 19th-century Commercial Street freight shed behind which it is building the Virginia; that could cost about $300,000-$400,000, Hines said.

“We’ve been doing well each year; we’ve been raising almost $100,000 with grants and contributions,” he said. “We’ve got to keep plugging away at it.”

The estimated cost to build the ship has been around $500,000-$600,000 for materials alone. Other items such as insurance can double that amount, Hines said.

Amanda McDaniel, executive director of Main Street Bath, is among those looking forward to seeing the Virginia sail the Kennebec once again.

I hope that they will continue to be ready for launch in 2020,” she said Monday, “as nothing is better timed for our bicentennial year than a celebration of one of this country’s most important firsts.”

Unlike its 1607 predecessor, this ship will be Coast Guard-certified in order to carry passengers.

Colonists built the original Virginia – the first European ship constructed in New England – at Fort St. George, at the mouth of the Kennebec River.

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

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

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