A replica of one of the three ships that carried the founders of America's first permanent English settlement to Virginia in 1607 embarked Monday on an East Coast tour.

The voyage of the $2.6 million Godspeed launches an 18-month series of events marking Jamestown's 400th anniversary, and organizers are counting on the sail to generate interest in the commemoration.

"Captain, cast off your lines and make ready to set sail and let us share the story of America's beginning. Godspeed," Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said just before the ship left its home berth at the state-run Jamestown Settlement living history museum.

After the ship moved away from the dock onto the James River with its sails unfurled, the Susan Constant, a replica of one of the first settlers' other ships, fired a cannon salute. The Godspeed returned responded with a cannon shot to cheers from the crowd of about 150 invited guests.

The Godspeed's first stop during the 80-day tour will be Saturday in Alexandria. It will then head to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Newport, R.I.

The ship will be accompanied at each port by a free "Landing Party," with live performances, historical exhibits and cultural displays.

At each stop, the Godspeed's crew of paid staff and volunteers will be dressed in costume as visitors come on board. While the ship is in "museum mode," modern navigational equipment and amenities such as a shower and small kitchen will be hidden to preserve the 17th-century atmosphere.

Built at Rockport Marine Inc., in Rockport, Maine, the Godspeed arrived at Jamestown Settlement two weeks ago. It will replace an older replica, built of pine in the 1980s, that is deteriorating. The new ship is made from rot-resistant tropical hardwoods and has twin diesel engines for use when conditions become difficult.