By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
The Portside in Old Town Festival (details at the end of this article) takes place this weekend, and a special attraction is a visit by the tall ship Godspeed. This re-creation of a historic ship is usually “home” at the Jamestown Settlement living history museum, but it’s making a stop in Northern Virginia after visiting Baltimore for Fleet Week.
Godspeed is one of the three ships that brought America’s first permanent English colonists to Virginia in 1607 (the other two were the Susan Constant and Discovery). The public can take free tours of Godspeed October 12-14, 2018 at the Alexandria Marina in Old Town near Torpedo Factory Art Center. This is a great way to get a taste of history right here, especially if you’ve not been to Jamestown lately.
Tours take place Friday, Oct. 12, 3-6 pm; Saturday, Oct. 13, noon-6 pm; and Sunday, Oct. 14, 1-5 pm (the ship will remain on Monday and Tuesday for scheduled school tours). Visitors this weekend will board the ship and tour the deck only, but during regular visits to Jamestown you also can go below deck to see the inside.
On board will be Jamestown Settlement staff and volunteers who enthusiastically share information on the ship’s people, cargo, and tools. Visitors can see antique navigational instruments, other tools and devices sailors used, and board games of the time.
There is no set “program” on the ship. Instead, you tour at your own pace and the staff and volunteers on the ship happily answer questions you may have. Visitors can see artifacts up-close and learn about their functions, such as the “sailor’s palm” below, a hand-held thimble useful for repairing the canvas sails.
The ship’s crew also can tell you about the challenges the first settlers to the United States faced during their journey and upon arrival, and what life was like on board during the long trip from London to Jamestown, which took about three months.
Tours are first-come, first-served, and no tickets are required. Because of the size of the ship, only a few dozen visitors can board at one time. While there, though, you can get an up-close look at many components of the ship, and even try your hand at working with some of the tools. For example, you can try to identify your latitude with the use of a “backstaff,” which checks the angle of the sun (you can explain to the kids this is a “pre-GPS” device!).
This is Godspeed’s first visit to our area since 2006. Normally docked at Jamestown, the ship takes a couple of longer trips each year to serve as a “sailing classroom.” In the past it also has visited the Eastern Shore, Richmond, and other areas in Virginia.
Guests also can learn about other fun and educational events coming up next year. In 2019, the Commonwealth of Virginia will celebrate its key role in 400 years of our nation’s history. American Evolution, with themes of democracy, diversity, and opportunity, is a yearlong celebration with multiple events throughout the state.
The Portside in Old Town Festival is a new community festival featuring free tours of the tall ship Godspeed, a waterfront beer garden, food, live music, and art and fitness activities. Admission to the festival is free.
The festival lineup also includes an LED light performance by Incandescent Entertainment presented by The Athenaeum, a pop-up exotic car exhibit, a free kids’ pizza-making demo by Pizzeria Paradiso, a free kids decorative craft project from AR Workshop, a free outdoor group fitness class from Sand & Steel Fitness and more. The weekend also includes free special events happening inside the Torpedo Factory Art Center, such as the “Art Safari” on Saturday afternoon with artist-led hands-on activities for kids and adults.
Photos by P. Hall