The replica of the original Mayflower ship that brought pilgrims to America in 1620 started its journey home to Massachusetts from Connecticut Monday morning after a three-year restoration project in Mystic.
"This is an incredibly special day because it marks the completion of our restoration of Mayflower II," said Kate Sheehan, who works as the associate director of marketing for Plimoth Plantation, Mayflower II's home.
Mayflower II originally set sail in 1957, arriving in Plymouth, Mass. in June of that year. Since then, the ship has been an exhibit at Plimoth Plantation teaching people about the historic 1620 journey.
After years of exposure to natural elements, the Mayflower II needed to be restored. The Mystic Seaport Museum began working on the boat in 2014. By 2016, the Mayflower II would be held at the Mystic Seaport Museum for extensive work. For more than three years, the ship has remained in Mystic.
"There is really nothing easy about working on Mayflower," said Christopher Sanders, a shipwright at the museum who worked on the ship's $11 million-dollar restoration. "It has been the thrill of a lifetime, it really has."
About 75 perv\cent of the ship is brand new. The shipwrights tore the boat apart, almost down to a skeleton, and then built it back up.
"Each piece of wood that is on there came into the shipyard as a log from a tree, many of them from Connecticut," explained Chris Gasiorek, vice president of watercraft preservation and programs at the museum.
Gasiorek said that more than 100 people worked on Mayflower II and estimated that tens of thousands of hours of work went into restoring the ship.
Mayflower II will not return directly to MA. The ship will be in New London for about two weeks, docked at City Pier. The ship's 27-person crew will conduct sea trials and perform sail training before returning to Plimoth Plantation by early August. The boat will not be available for full public view until it is back in Plymouth Harbor, according to Sheehan.
People gathered along the Mystic River Monday morning to bid the ship farewell. Kerry Hribal and her daughter, Abby, drove four hours to Mystic for the departure.
"Just a very emotional, magnificent event to actually see this in motion," said Hribal, wiping away tears.
Representatives from the Mystic Seaport Museum and Plimoth Plantation said that in addition to preserving the story of the 1620 voyage, they hope the ship also tells the important story of restoration and highlights the skill it took to restore Mayflower II.
"This is about the preservation of craft and skill that we really don't see very often anymore," said Sheehan.