Brett Phaneuf, a Massachusetts expat living in Plymouth, England, happened to be meeting with local officials about a project when the talk turned to the 400th commemoration of the Mayflower sailing to the New World.
One of the embarkation ports for the Pilgrims, the Plymouth, England, side of the celebration will include a reenactment of the voyage to the other Plymouth with a replica Mayflower. An anthropologist and entrepreneur who runs a company that makes undersea research vessels, Phaneuf thought the anniversary version of the Mayflower lacked imagination.
“The problem with a 17th-century ship is when you’re done with it, you have a 17th-century ship,” Phaneuf said. “So I said, instead of thinking of the last 400 years, why not think about the next 400 years?”
So Phaneuf worked with designers to create a futuristic vessel that looks like a cross between a spaceship and catamaran — and that will sail itself. He dubbed it the Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship, or MARS, and has convinced the city to add the ship to the commemoration, which will include its own transatlantic voyage in September 2020.