Susan Constant got underway for a two-year restoration in Mystic, Ct., on Monday, June 17.

Jamestown’s Floating Museum to Leave Port for Two-Year Restoration

If you were out on the Bay this week and caught a glimpse of a square-rigger traveling north, consider yourself lucky. It’s a sight you won’t see again for at least two years—the flagship of Virginia’s historic fleet, traveling the Chesapeake Bay.

The Susan Constant, a 1989-built interpretation of the 17th-century square rigged ship that settled at Jamestown, is making her way north to Mystic, Connecticut, for a multi-year restoration.

This “floating classroom”, homeported at Jamestown Settlement, leads the official fleet of the Commonwealth of Virginia. For the last 33 years, the ship has been used for maritime education. Like many old boats we’ve owned, she’s due for some work. This spring, the Virginia General Assembly approved $4.7 million in repairs and restoration to the wooden, 120-ton cargo vessel.

A 15-member sailing crew, led by Captain Eric Speth, longtime director of Maritime Operations for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, will take Susan Constant north. They set out Monday and estimated that the 515-mile journey would take four to five days, weather permitting. The Susan Constant is traveling under the power of her diesel engines, rather than under sail.

The work will be done over two years at the Henry B. du Pont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport Museum. Why go all the way to Connecticut, rather than stay in Virginia? The Mystic Seaport works exclusively on wooden boats and is “ideally suited for large wooden vessel restoration projects”, Jamestown says.

Recent dry-dock inspections found the ship needs a comprehensive restoration to repair its hull planking, upper framing, mast and rigging components, and other pivotal hull structures. She will be “re-topped”, her planking replaced above the waterline and parts of the hull, to extend her useful service life for at least 20-30 years. Speth says this kind of restoration is three to four times cheaper than replacing the ship altogether.

The current vessel Susan Constant, commissioned on April 25, 1991, was the second Susan Constant used for education. The first was built in Norfolk in 1957. Today’s ship sails alongside recreations of the the Godspeed and the Discovery. Theses ships will be available for visitors at the Jamestown Settlement pier while the Susan Constant is away.

As a recreated merchant ship, Susan Constant has hosted an estimated 19 million visitors over the years, from schoolchildren to presidents and even royalty. It teaches guests about 17th-century sailing and navigation during the 1607 voyage to Jamestown. A fundraising effort is underway to support maritime education while the ship is under repair. You can find out more about the restoration at