Under slate-gray skies, the ill-fated journey of the Godspeed -- a reconstruction of the original vessel that carried 39 settlers and 13 crewmen here in 1607 -- ended almost exactly as it had begun nearly six months ago: with the ship following powerlessly behind a small boat.
But the crowning indignity came just a few hundred yards from the dock. Shortly before 10 a.m., the Godspeed ran aground on a sandbar in the James River, delaying its arrival -- already nearly four months overdue -- by about 30 minutes.
"We had to laugh. There was nothing else we could do," said Jon Rolf Christiansen, captain of the 68-foot, square-rigged wooden vessel.
Laugh as they might, the Godspeed's delays were a cruel joke for both the crew and for state officials, who had originally trumpeted the voyage as an effort to promote Virginia tourism.
The Godspeed, which left London April 30 to recreate the voyage that brought the first permanent English settlers to this country, was originally scheduled to arrive here on July 9. Since then, it has come to be known primarily for its chronic inability to live up to its name.
Although several top Virginia officials, including Gov. Charles S. Robb, flew to London when the Godspeed set sail, prominent poltical figures were noticeably absent from the crowd of 200 when the Godspeed arrived today.
The bedeviling delays started when the ship's construction was several months late. After setting sail, the ship repeatedly faced winds that impeded her progress. "If we didn't have wind, we'd go nowhere. If we had wind, we had too much wind," said Neil Tanner of Virginia Beach, one of three remaining members of the original crew of 13.
In July, the Godspeed's sponsors, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, decided to berth the boat in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to avoid the hurricane season, according to foundation spokesman Allan Libby.
After leaving San Juan on Sept. 18, the Godspeed again ran into alternately low winds and inclement weather, the crew members said.
Earlier this week, the Godspeed had to be towed by a Coast Guard vessel out of high winds off Cape Hatteras.
"This is totally regulated by Mother Nature. When she gets angry, there's nothing you can do," said Christiansen.
Just minutes after the Godspeed's arrival at the pier of the Jamestown Festival Park, as if to signal no hard feelings, Mother Nature ordered the sun out from behind the clouds as the crew hugged relatives and mugged for cameras.
A bottle of champagne was opened, and the cork, seeming to echo the spirit of the day, popped less than a foot into the air.
The total costs of the construction and the voyage of the Godspeed have been just over $1 million, according to Jamestown-Yorktown Executive Director Ross Weeks Jr. More than $700,000 of that was provided by the state and the rest by private donations.
Future engagements for the Godspeed, which is to be equipped with a motor, may include events such as the reopening of the Statue of Liberty, Libby said.
The problems of the Godspeed's voyage were not limited to weather.
The original captain, George Salley, has said he left the ship in San Juan because of disagreement with the decision to finish the voyage this fall, rather than waiting through the hurricane season.
Crew members said news reports of dissension among the crew were exaggerated, and that most of those who left the ship did so primarily because of a need to return home.
Many crew members said the monotony of the voyage was the biggest challenge. "Basically, it boiled down to eat and sleep, eat and sleep," said Tanner.
Woollard agreed: "It was everything I expected it would be -- and more. And slower."