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The Adventure Replica Cargo Vessel

A reproduction of a 17th century coastal trader, the Adventure was a cargo vessel that would carry supplies, provisions, commodities and livestock between New Amsterdam (present New York) and Barbados in the West Indies.

The Adventure was designed by renowned 20th century shipwright William Avery Baker in 1969 and set underway in March 1970 to celebrate the Tri-centennial at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in April of 1970.

The Adventure leaves its dock in the park for its biannual haul out for maintenance. This will occur twice per year, every year, to ensure the longevity and sustainability of the wooden vessel in this warm water climate.

The first maintenance haul out went very well. The hull and keel are in great shape! The rudder and prop had minor barnacle build up which was taken care of, and minor damage to the rudder from the original trip down (the prop “pulled” paint off the rudder). A copper plate was installed to prevent this in the future. The hull below the water line was scraped and painted. The deck and top rail were scraped and painted and, according to the contractor, we are good for another year. We finished the re-rigging and stair re-install today and are ready to open. The ship has been turned and now faces the opposite direction for proper “tanning”.

The Adventure ship at Charles Towne LandingA New Adventure: A Popular Attraction Returns to Charleston

Boaters cruising the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in mid-October 2008 caught a glimpse of something rarely seen for centuries – a 17th-century sailing ship! The Adventure, a replica of the type of trading ketch that would have plied coastal waters during the colonial period, was making its way down from Maine to its permanent home at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina. Located on a secluded, marsh-fringed peninsula off the Ashley River, Charles Towne Landing preserves and interprets the site where English colonists established the first permanent European settlement in the Carolinas in 1670.

The State of South Carolina commissioned Rockport Marine, an internationally renowned boatyard in Rockport, Maine, to construct the Adventure. This new vessel replaced its predecessor of the same name, which succumbed to the elements after being docked in Old Towne Creek (the tidal watercourse that borders Charles Towne Landing) for more than thirty years. No stranger to historic shipbuilding, Rockport Marine has several authentic replicas on its résumé, including the Godspeed, a reproduction of one of the boats that brought the Jamestown colonists to Virginia in 1607.

Designed by naval architect William Avery Baker, the original Adventure was completed in 1970, the year that Charles Towne Landing opened to the public as part of South Carolina’s tricentennial celebration. Following Baker’s original blueprints (housed in MIT’s Hart Nautical Collection), Rockport Marine completed the new ketch – made of oak, cedar, and pine – in only nine months. The second Adventure measures 73 feet from bowsprit to stern, with a 50-foot deck, and weighs in at 50 tons. Consisting of two masts (main and mizzen) and five sails, the ship is 53 feet tall from the hull to the top of the main mast. Should the wind prove fickle, the Adventure is also equipped with a 180-horsepower Volvo diesel engine.

The Adventure ship at Charles Towne LandingTo use a modern comparison, ketches like the Adventure were the mid-sized delivery trucks of their day. With crews of between six and eight sailors, they served as the workhorses of Carolina’s early economy, transporting goods to and from England’s other New World possessions, especially the West Indian sugar island of Barbados.

Considered the “seed colony”, or cultural hearth, of Carolina, Barbados played a crucial role in the founding of Charles Towne. One of the original Lords Proprietors, the eight English aristocrats upon whom King Charles II conferred the Carolina Charter in 1663, was a wealthy Barbadian planter named Sir John Colleton. At the time of Charles Towne’s establishment, Barbados was the wealthiest English colony in the Americas, thanks to the wildly lucrative sugar industry. Hoping to turn a profit on their colonial enterprise, the Lords Proprietors looked to Barbados, with its slave-based plantation system devoted to the cultivation of a single cash crop, as an economic model for Carolina. They actively recruited Barbadians, placing a premium on their experience, and employed Barbadian sea captains to explore the Carolina coastline to find a suitable place for a settlement. Barbadian immigrants would constitute a significant portion of the colony’s population in the early years. Their leaders would form a powerful faction that would hold sway over South Carolina’s political affairs for decades. Using ketches like the Adventure, Barbadian and Carolinian merchants helped strengthen the ties between the two colonies, bringing sugar, rum, and manufactured goods to the mainland and taking badly needed timber products and foodstuffs back to a deforested island covered in seas of sugarcane.

The Adventure at Charles Towne Landing serves as a floating classroom, highlighting the importance of the Carolina-Caribbean connection and maritime trade. Visitors can board the ketch moored in Old Towne Creek, and learn about the rigors of a sailor’s life, experience the cramped quarters below deck, and see some the tools used for navigation.

To enhance the visitor’s experience at Charles Towne Landing, the South Carolina State Park Service has redesigned the wharf area adjacent to the Adventure. It features a new floating dock, a full-scale skeleton of a trading ketch (which serves as the centerpiece of a shipbuilding exhibit), and an interactive rigging display that will allow visitors to try their hand at hoisting the sails.

The return of the Adventure marked the culmination of a multi-year effort to redevelop Charles Towne Landing. Having won a number of preservation awards, the revamped historic site boasts a new visitor center and museum, which contains twelve rooms of hands-on, multimedia exhibits. Other attractions include reconstructions of Charles Towne’s original fortifications (complete with six, working replica cannons), the Common House (a representation of a 17th-century communal dwelling), an experimental crop garden, and a natural habitat zoo that contains animals found in the Carolinas at the time of colonization.

For updates on the Adventure or for more information about program offerings and upcoming events at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, please visit the park’s website at: www.charlestownelanding.travel. Those interested in the Rockport Marine page for the Adventure may fread it online at: http://www.rockportmarine.com/boat_details.php?boatID=8&category=4.

Written by John Hiatt, Interpretive Ranger, Charles Towne Landing SHS