With growing local support in Virginia, the replica eighteenth-century sloop Providence will make Alexandria her new home this summer.
The 110-foot Providence represents the Continental Navy’s first warship— and John Paul Jones’ first command. The original ship’s first mission in the American Revolution was to clear the Chesapeake Bay of enemy British ships.
She was used in the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, standing in for various ships.
This week, the state of Virginia announced $50,000 in matched grant money, for the tourism group Visit Alexandria to promote the replica tall ship’s arrival to that city’s waterfront.
The attraction is expected to include an on-board experience where visitors can tour the ship, “meet” John Paul Jones, and cruise the Potomac with family programs and a Port City Brewing “craft brew cruise.” The Tall Ship Providence Foundation is also planning for children’s birthday parties at the dock, and opportunities to rent the ship for private tours. Next year, the Foundation will open a visitor center near the base of King Street for interactive learning about the early U.S. Navy.
Providence had been home ported in Providence, Rhode Island, but was sold after a snowstorm caused an estimated half-million dollars in damage. The tall ship is undergoing repairs and renovations in Wiscasset, Maine, to ready her for the public. Buying and restoring her has cost about a million dollars, raised privately through a combination of donations and social enterprise bonds.
The Tall Ship Providence Foundation notes, “Master Shipwright Leon Poindexter is leading this project and has over 40 years of traditional shipbuilding experience; his experience includes restoring the gun deck on the U.S.S. Constitution and working on the ships used in 20th Century Fox’s Academy Award winning film Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe.”
The ship is expected to re-launch for sea trials come May, and at the end of May, Providence will begin its first voyage down the East Coast, stopping in four or five ports. The Foundation’s Director of Programs and Communications, Diana West, says those stops are still being finalized.
Then, says West, there will be a big Welcoming Ceremony at the marina in Old Town Alexandria in late June or early July and the ship is expected to open to visitors by mid-July.
“We are very grateful for Visit Alexandria and all the efforts they are making on our behalf!” West tells Bay Bulletin.
You can keep up with the progress of Providence and its planned tour through the Tall Ship Providence Foundation’s Twitter (@TSProvidence) and Facebook accounts.
-Meg Walburn Viviano