After another run along the Cape Cod Rail Trail, we packed up and headed to Plymouth, MA. Our first stop was to see the Mayflower II. This ship is an authentic recreation of the Mayflower. It was built in 1957 and sailed from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, MA in 55 days. While it has sailed to different parts of the US from time to time, it mostly rests in Plymouth, MA, as an exhibit.
The cost of entry was supposed to be over $100 for us to see this and the Plimouth [sic] Plantation (see below). We must have found one of three non-Marxists in New England, because when Candy asked about the advertised military discount, the man behind the counter admitted us to both exhibits for FREE. What a great way to start the day! We thanked him several times, and he joked about possibly losing his job at the end of the day when the counted the till. It was a very nice gesture.
There were two living history interpreters on board when we visited. This one in the picture played the role of the ship’s captain. I learned a great deal about the economics of 17th century merchantmen from this man. He was very interesting. Below on the Orlop Deck was an actor playing the role of a seaman. Topside was a plain-clothes docent who was enthusiastic and informative. One of her interesting stories was the fact that the Mayflower only had a 20-foot draught. In heavy weather the yardarms could touch the water. I had always heard that the pilgrims were not allowed on deck, but after this discussion I realized that was for their own safety. Apparently one of the pilgrims who was on deck (illicitly) actually fell overboard and would have drowned had he not luckily grabbed a line that had also fallen into the water.
We thought that the ship would be the sidelight and that the main event would be Plimouth Plantation. We enjoyed the ship more than the plantation.
At Plimouth Plantation they built a Wapanoag (Indian) village and a reconstruction of the 1627 Plimouth settlement. We found the Wapanoag village underwhelming. There were several living history re-enactors there, but they interacted very little with the visitors. When we did ask questions, we received short, curt answers. There were two men apparently building another long house, but they couldn’t be bothered to talk to us about what they were doing. The only vocal person was a woman who was expounding on the evil Europeans.
One thing I found interesting was that the corn was planted as the Indians would have done so. It was not planted in tight rows as we do today. It was planted in a more open, non-row pattern with an equal distance between plants in all directions. Clearly using rows gives you more corn per acre. This is the kind of attention to detail that characterized the Plimouth Plantation. After a little while we moved on to the Plimouth settlement.
They’ve done a tremendous job of using historical records to lay out this village, complete with stockade walls, meeting house, and various dwellings. There were a few living history re-enactors around the village taking on the roles of various historical personalities. They had really done their homework and could talk in great detail about the persona they were taking on. One of them had some interesting insights on the relationship of the common folk with the royalty and Church of England.
While there were several living history re-enactors scattered around the village, the man representing John Brewster (the religious leader) and one of the men in the process of constructing a new house were the most informative and outgoing. One thing notably absent were working craftsmen in the village. Other than the three men building a new house, most folks were wandering around talking to visitors. As a result, it was difficult to get a sense of what daily life was like in the colony.
Probably the most interesting tidbit of information was the reason the pilgrims came to the New World. They had fled from England to Holland for religious freedom (their Church was outlawed in England), but not being citizens of Holland, they were relegated to a very menial existence. They petitioned the king to form a colony for economic reasons. By the way, half the folks on the Mayflower were not part of the pilgrims’ religion, but participation in their ceremonies was compulsory for all members of the colony.
From Plymouth we headed to Foxboro (outside Boston) to a place called Five Wits. I had read about their immersive entertainment experiences in the IAAPA trade journal some years earlier. As I am a zealot for mixed and augmented reality for training and entertainment, I really wanted to see this. In the Foxboro location they have two “shows:” Espionage and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Both experiences involve a plot line that has the participants moving through several rooms. In each room you have to solve one or more puzzles to move to the next room. Most of the puzzles were clever. After cracking the safe of the evil group Cabal, in the picture above you see Tom and Candy replacing the blueprints to hide the fact that we had been there.
The second event was the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea experience. The event was of similar design but with a Jules Verne appearance and a different set of puzzles to be solved. We disagreed on which experience we liked better. Both had their plusses and minuses. We really enjoyed both.
Tomorrow: Lexington, Concord, and a long drive to Maine.