Maine’s First Ship, a volunteer-run effort to build a reconstruction of a ship that sailed across the Atlantic Ocean centuries ago, hired its first executive director late last month.

Kirstie Truluck joined Maine’s First Ship as the nonprofit’s first executive director late last month. Photo courtesy of Kirstie Truluck

The Bath-based nonprofit announced it hired Kirstie Truluck, who “brings over a decade of administrative leadership, an enthusiasm for all that Maine’s First Ship has accomplished to date, and the facilitation expertise to help the organization pull together in the service of lofty goals,” in a Nov. 20 Facebook post.

Raised on Cape Cod, Truluck studied at the University of Maine and stayed in the state after graduating. Throughout her childhood and into adulthood, Truluck said she has always been enamored with boats.

“Some of my favorite moments have been on the decks of ships,” said Truluck. “Ships to me are beautiful, magical and works of art that happen to also work.”

Truluck said she has held various roles in education and administration over roughly 30 years, but decided it was time for a career change during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, she worked at Fisher Mitchell School during the academic year, then worked with the Maine Maritime Museum’s summer program for children. While working with students through the museum, she brought them to Maine’s First Ship and said she loved watching the students discover the project.

“I loved introducing people to that history and they seemed really intrigued,” said Truluck. “I decided that I wanted to stay and help out.”

Tucked behind Bath City Hall in an unassuming warehouse on Commercial Street, nearly 50 volunteers have worked for over a decade to build a reconstruction of the Virginia — a ship built in 1607 in what is now Phippsburg. The Virginia was the first English-built ship that sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. It was a pinnae-style ship, meaning it was a smaller, light sailing ship that was propelled by sails and oars, though the reconstruction has a motor as well.

The volunteer-run group started building the reconstruction in 2007 as a way to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of the Popham Colony. Popham is located at the southernmost end of Phippsburg at the mouth of the Kennebec River.

Truluck said she was drawn to the organization by the volunteers’ “joy, creative spirit, and craftsmanship.”

“What amazes me is a group of people got together and asked ‘What happens if we…’ and not give up in the face of obstacles.” she said. “Look what they’ve created with human endeavor and dreaming — it’s remarkable.”

About 20 volunteers work to build the boat, and another 10-15 offer tours of the boat and museum in the Bath Freight Shed during the summer. The group also has a 16-person executive board.

After 14 years of construction, the project is nearing the finish line. The group plans to launch the boat in the Kennebec River on June 4, but the Virginia won’t yet be ready for passengers. It will take another six months to a year to install the ship’s rigging, receive certifications to carry passengers, and map out tour routes, according to Board President Orman Hines.

Volunteers can be seen working on the 17th Century pinnace in this 2019 file photo. Courtesy of Maine’s First Ship

Though Maine’s First Ship volunteers have proved themselves to be skilled shipbuilders, Hines said the group needed a leader with some prior experience in education and administration. Eight people applied for the position, but Hines said Truluck best fit the bill.

“I think I can give them fresh energy to take their ideas and bring them to life,” Truluck said. “It’s Bath, Maine’s best kept secret. There are so many people who don’t know it, especially those families with school-aged children. They’re an educational nonprofit, so I want to help them connect with schools.”

When the ship is finished and ready to sail, Hines said he believes Truluck can help the group develop solid educational programming, offer tours, and build a presence in the community.

“We’re moving into a new period where we’ll be sailing it and keeping the finances going,” said Hines. “We felt like we needed some extra help to keep the program going, make it more of a business operation and be a little more professional. I’m looking forward to having her on board. I think it’s going to help us a lot.”


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