Watermen’s Winter Work

Although we’re closed for the season, there’s a lot going on at the Museum this winter. Of course, the big story is the surprise we received on New Year’s Eve.  Our water supply line from the street side water meter ruptured under the front sidewalk during the extended cold spell we all endured.  Thanks to the efforts of Mike and Bubba, we were able to determine that the break wasn’t directly accessible for us to repair.  So, we coordinated with the Newport News Waterworks and York County to determine a course of action and to make the repairs.  We can’t thank them enough for all of their help.

We have also replaced some of the siding on the Carriage House thanks to the skilled carpentry efforts of MJ, one of our board members.  In the Boat Shop, Jay, Pete, Lenny and other members of our boat crew are working diligently to build a new Bubba 14 skiff.   The boat’s design is fully transferred onto the lofting table and the forms (molds) to shape the boat are constructed and placed on the table.  The skiff’s stem and transom are built.  Now, the team is starting to build the rest of the boat.  She’s going to be a beautiful red cedar skiff we can raffle to raise funds to support our educational programs.

Ramp and Deck Repairs

Richard and Ken of our Boat Crew team are also refurbishing our back deck and ramp area.  They are replacing some of the heavily worn railing, ramp, stairs and deck boards with new ones.  As you can see in the picture, the work is extensive.  At least half of the boards in many areas are being replaced.  If anyone loves to paint, we’ll need some volunteers to paint all of the new wood when the weather breaks.

Speaking of painting, we also need some help on our steel Betsy sculpture in front of the museum.  Late last year, Randy (another of our board members) and a volunteer crew scraped it and we have prepped it for painting.  But, before we can do that, we also need some help re-rigging her.  It seems that it is a highly sought after place for vandals to climb.  So, she definitely needs some tender loving care to fix her sails and lines.  Anyone want to volunteer?

Oh, while we’re talking about vandals, many of you probably heard we were vandalized a couple times in 2017.  Well, thanks to Randy and his friends, we have acquired more security cameras for the outside of the Museum and the Carriage House.  Many of these cameras are high resolution and we can view them either at the office or from our mobile phones.  So, we should be able to better work with law enforcement to reduce how much the Museum and our grounds suffer from senseless acts of destruction in the future.

Looking back inside our buildings, the exhibits staff is working on another big project, installing a Cornwallis shipwreck exhibit. We are converting our Gallery 4 area into an exhibit that talks about all of the shipwrecks from British General Cornwallis’ sunken fleet, with a special focus on two of the most significant rediscovered ships, the HMS Charon and the HMS Betsy.  We’re working with Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the Mariner’s Museum, and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to design and build a great exhibit that talks about the wrecks and also about some of the recovery efforts that have taken place over the years. Of course, designing and building a new exhibit also means many of items from the old exhibit must be retained and displayed in our other gallery areas.  So, we are doing some exhibit re-work in the other three galleries as well.  Make sure you come visit when we re-open, you’ll be amazed with the changes that have taken place.

Our Gift Shop

Tina and Joan. our dedicated Gift Shop managers have finished their annual inventory.  With nearly a thousand items in inventory, it’s a big job and a very tedious one.  They have to count every single item, verify its sale price, and load the data into a spreadsheet that does all of the mathematical calculations necessary for our accounting processes.  Then, they have had to store the items for the season.  We don’t envy them in their task.

Up in the office, we’re really busy writing grants and curriculum for field trips and summer camps. In addition, we are booking springtime school field trips, weddings and other events, and musical performers for our upcoming summer series.

And, of course, we are still working on a lot of other efforts.  Ann, one of our volunteers, is helping us by cleaning and dusting all of our exhibit areas.  Bruce, our model making volunteer, has just finished a wonderful diorama using one of our WW I model boats and other items to tell the story of of how thousands of houses were sent aboard ship from Hampton roads to support the war effort in Europe.  This exhibit will be temorarily on loan to the Mariner’s Museum.

On a broader scale, we are still working with the regional nominating committee to seek designation of the Cornwallis Shipwrecks as a National Maritime Heritage Sanctuary.   This National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designation, when applied, would give the shipwrecks the nation-wide visibility the USS Monitor currently enjoys under the same sanctuary program.  Although only a dozen of the over forty warships sunk have been located, the entire area between Gloucester Point and Yorktown is currently on the National Historic Register.  Part of this effort is to precisely locate as many ships as possible along the Yorktown and the Gloucester Point shores.  If the nomination package is accepted for review by NOAA, we will still have a lot of work to do to gather inputs from local communities and governments, perform required archeological, environmental, and other impact studies and hold public discussion forums before it can be decided if the shipwrecks ill be designated as a Heritage Sanctuary.  So, we envision that this effort will take many more years of public discussion before we can all formally decide if this effort will provide some rewards for the local area and the nation.

But, even with all of that going on, we still have a lot more tings we would like to get accomplished before we reopen on April 3rd.  If you have some carpentry skills, can run a chain saw, know how to tie nautical knots, don’t mind doing some landscaping or cleaning, or can wrangle a paint brush or roller, please let us know.  Opening day is now just two months away.  We have a lot of things to get done by then.   Then, on April 3rd, the real work starts when we open for the season.