Residents of Plymouth, Massachusetts and surrounding areas eagerly watched as the iconic Mayflower II sailed into State Pier near Plymouth Rock on August 11, 2020. The ship was returning home after an extensive three-year restoration project costing $11.2 million.

This month marks the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower’s arrival to New England with 102 Pilgrims onboard. This voyage led to the founding of America and is often cited as the reason why, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared a day of thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.

In 1957, a full-scale reproduction of the ship – the Mayflower II – was built in Devon, England, and gifted to America as a symbol of post-World War II unity. Today, the craft is docked at Plymouth Harbor as part of Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in southeastern Massachusetts.

The ship shines as an important Historic treasure, one that Intact Ocean Marine, and other important parties are very proud to protect. For example, the faithful tugboat that has escorted the Mayflower II for nearly 40 years.

For more than 25 years, Intact has provided insurance coverage for Mayflower II in partnership with Rogers & Gray Insurance Agency Inc.

Intact, in partnership with Smithwick & Mariners Insurance Inc., also insures the tugboat Jaguar and Fairhaven Shipyard in Fairhaven, MA where the ship’s maintenance work usually is carried out.

Mayflower II after renovations

Jaguar – the tugboat

Over the past 39 years since at least 1981, Captain Charlie Mitchell and his tugboat Jaguar have been towing Mayflower II wherever and whenever necessary. Most recently this summer they completed a month-long journey from Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut to Plymouth Massachusetts after Mayflower II underwent its restoration.  “Towing is essential for historic vessels like the Mayflower II that do not have their own motor power,” explains Capt. Mitchell. Although, “she just needs us along to keep an eye on her. She may be a replica, and a very exact one at that, but still a historic treasure.”

However, moving Mayflower II is not an easy job. The tugboat needs to be suited for the size and style of the vessel that it is transporting. “Mayflower II is particularly unique because of her ancient build, and its proliferation of yards, sheets, gun-ports and decorations,” adds Mitchell.  

Built in 1978, the strong steel tug has impressive sea-keeping qualities, ample speed and great maneuverability. After the Mayflower II had been restored, “it was extremely tricky to move the ship out of Mystic Seaport because of narrow bridges and thousands of spectators on boats.” After moving safely out of the port and further in to the ocean, “the weather suddenly became foggy, and we had to be careful of not hitting any rocks.”

The tug has to be able to match up alongside the tow near docks and narrow places, and also to be able to rig up vessels they tow behind them in rough weather. This all has to be done without contacting the vessel or damaging it. “We wait for an extended forecast of good weather, especially wind forecasts and storms, before we begin a trip of towing or salvaging. However, all this planning takes place away from the immediate realities of weather,” says Mitchell.

Midway to their destination at Plymouth MA, Hurricane Isaias moved toward the east coast. “We were near New London where the Mayflower was scheduled for a coast guard inspection. Due to the approaching storm, immediately after inspection, we insisted we be able to move the ship from New London to New Bedford overnight. It was an unplanned stop but very important to protect the ship for a couple of days before heading to Newport’s Fort Adams as planned.” However, due to rising number of COVID-19 cases and new travel restrictions, the scheduled stop in Rhode Island was canceled and the ship was taken directly to Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

Mitchell notes that the crew on Mayflower II did an incredible job, and were on their toes throughout the journey as they are not used to towing-evolution vessels. “They were central to the mission as they worked hand-in-hand with the tug boat.”

Charlie Mitchell established Mitchell Towing and Salvage Company in 1973 out of the port in New Bedford, MA. He grew up reading and listening to stories of the sea and was “smitten with things that floated.” Mitchell adds, “When the replica of Mayflower first sailed to Massachusetts from England in the 1950s, its safety generator was brought to my father’s shop to be examined.” Given that, he feels like he has had a life-long association with Mayflower II.

On the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival to New England there is much excitement and interest in the Mayflower II, which included crowds of onlookers following her journey at each port.  According to Mitchell, these crowds “became distractions to dock [the ship] safely and meet the timings of the tide. But it is part of the job, and in the end it is special jobs like escorting Mayflower II that make me feel like I’m part of history.”

Jaguar – the tugboat for Mayflower II