The Maryland Dove sailed up the St. Mary's River this afternoon with every stitch of canvas up and drawing, just the way her sister ship must have done 349 years ago when the New World was young.
It was in March 1634 that the original Dove and her traveling companion, the Ark, bore 18 British gentlemen, 140 indentured servants and the worldly goods they would need to settle in the wilderness to this historic seat of Maryland life on the west side of the Chesapeake.
It would not have looked much different then than it did on a sparkling spring afternoon today, as the crew of the 65-foot pinnace set sail at Point Lookout and rode a perfect following breeze up the Potomac and into the St. Mary's.
"Oh, they wouldn't have seen any houses, of course," said Mike Pratt, gazing across to the shore through seaman's eyes. "But everything else is about the same."
There are those among her crew who wish the Maryland Dove were a little less like her forebear. Her trip home today was from winter drydock in Solomons, near the mouth of the Patuxent River, where she was taken after an error that nearly did her in.
Last year, fretting over money, the St. Mary's City Commission elected not to haul the Dove for her annual spring maintenance and bottom-painting.
In October, commission director Daniel Reed went below and discovered the horrible cost of that decision. "Teredo navalis," muttered Reed, offering the proper name for the varmints that sank the first Dove and almost claimed her successor: shipworms.
"First we saw holes around the waterline," said Reed. "Then we saw water coming through the holes. Then we saw little gray bodies coming through, against their will."
At age 4, the Dove's pure oak hull was Swiss cheese. Several months and $50,000 later, she is now whole again.
Almost 350 years ago the inhospitable waters of the St. Mary's played the same foul prank on the original. After the settlers were ensconced in their new home ("A most convenient and pleasant countrey," wrote one), the Dove was sent back to England, laden with beaver pelts and lumber.
But she was "much worme eaten," according to Father Andrew White, and sank off Ireland with all hands.
No such perils for the crew of a dozen who sailed the Dove around Point Lookout today. All they had to contend with were the peculiar expectations of the 20th century mind.
So it was that at the mouth of the Patuxent a wind shift put the breeze on the bow and it dawned on the few with no square-rig experience that they couldn't get where they had to go. Horrors!
"You boys are sailing backward," laughed Bill Trossbach from the Dove's tender, a wretched powerboat named Miles River.
Shortly, the wretched powerboat offered a line and the Dove suffered a nautical indignity as she lurched along under tow from Cedar Point to Point Lookout.
But the best, as in all good sea voyages, was saved for last. When she turned upriver at the mouth of the Potomac the headwind became a following wind and her spritsail, fore-topsail, foresail, mainsail, main topsail and mizzen all bellied with the freshet.
She roared home.
The Dove will remain in St. Mary's for the summer as an attraction to tourists visiting the 17th century state capital.
Her first serious duties will come Sunday, when she is a featured attraction at Maryland Day, a celebration honoring the first settlers. Also at that festival, to which admission is free, will be horse-drawn-wagon rides, seafood and stuffed ham, square dancing and music.
But please, say the crewmen of the Dove, no worm jokes.