- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

JAMESTOWN, Va. — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine bid “Godspeed” to the Godspeed yesterday to kick off an 18-month series of events marking the 400th anniversary of America’s first permanent English settlement.

The Godspeed, a $2.6 million replica of one of the three ships that carried the first settlers to Jamestown in 1607, is sailing to six East Coast ports to generate national interest in the “America’s 400th Anniversary” commemoration.

“Captain, cast off your lines and make ready to set sail and let us share the story of America’s beginning. Godspeed,” Mr. Kaine said just before the ship left its home berth at the state-run Jamestown Settlement living-history museum, a few hundred yards from the spot where the settlers built James Fort.

The ship slowly moved away from the dock onto the James River as its crew, dressed in 17th-century garb, unfurled the square sails on its three masts to cheers from the 150 guests invited to the bon-voyage party. The Susan Constant, a replica of one of the first settlers’ other ships, then fired a cannon salute from dockside and the Godspeed responded with a cannon shot of its own.

“Today is the beginning of 18 months of commemoration of a moment not just critical to the history of Jamestown or Virginia, or even America, but we begin to mark a moment that altered the path of the entire world and of human history,” Mr. Kaine said . He noted that America’s traditions of free enterprise, representative democracy and cultural diversity began at Jamestown.

Before the ship left, Mr. Kaine presented its captain, Eric Speth, with an “America’s 400th Anniversary” flag the ship will fly during the 80-day voyage, one of 10 signature events and hundreds of community projects related to the 400th anniversary.

The Godspeed’s first stop will be Saturday in Alexandria. It then will head to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Newport, R.I.

The ship will be accompanied at each port by a free “Landing Party,” with live performances, historical exhibits and cultural displays. Guests at yesterday’s event got a taste of that, with “Anniversary Voices,” a group of colorfully dressed singers belting contemporary songs with Jamestown themes.

Also at each stop, the Godspeed’s crew of paid staff and volunteers will be dressed in costumes as visitors come on board. While the ship is in “museum mode,” modern navigational equipment and amenities, such as a shower and small kitchen, will be hidden to preserve the 17th-century atmosphere.

Why bother to build and sail this replica?

“We need to know what challenges our forefathers faced, what they devised to overcome those challenges, and what courage they possessed,” Timothy Runyan, director of the maritime studies program at East Carolina University, said during the ceremony. “You can know this best by standing where they stood.”

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