Friday, May 31, 2013

The home stretch

The June 8 splash date for the two Beetle replica whaleboats is fast approaching, but fortunately the whaleboats are nearing completion.  The hull and bottom of the second boat received their last coats of paint, and now with their white hulls and bottoms and their ISM Blue sheer strake, they look to the casual observer like identical twins. Differences are more evident inside, since the second boat has an oil protected interior, gunwales, and trim, while the first boat was painted.
Whaleboat #2 ready for the last coat of blue on the sheer strake.
Whaleboat #1 ready to launch.
There are still a few more parts to fabricate and install in the second boat. Some of them are awaiting turning the boat right side up again.
A tiller has been added to the rudder for the second boat.
A harpoon rest is being glued up.  The loggerhead in the background awaits installation.
Meanwhile, with the L.F.Herreshoff Meadowlark receiving her final fitting out, she is getting a few additional parts before she goes on her way. Lee is working on a new set of cleats for her to replace the deteriorated ones with which she arrived.  Mark, her owner, has been working on the boat, reinstalling hardware and touching up paint and varnish.  Soon, she will motor out of the basin, and sail  down the river.
Lee works his rasp on a new cleat.
The shop was crowded with kids, as it seems to be more and more often lately.  Three groups made their way through, learning something of the arcane boatbuilding arts from Bruce, as well as a bit about the whaling industry.
A student group, obviously captivated by Bruce's lecture.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Greeting and Caulking

It was a mixed bag at Workshop on the Water Thursday.  We were hard at work preparing the second Beetle replica whaleboat for its June 8 launch, but took a few minutes off to welcome a famous visitor to the ISM dock, La Amistad.  La Amistad will be visiting for about a week in conjunction with the Museum's "Tides of Freedom" exhibit, and it is always a delight to see such a fine ship when we look up from our work in the boatshop.

The main activity of the day in the shop was caulking.  Each of the plank and batten seams needed to be reefed in preparation for caulking, and then filled with cotton fiber nearly to the surface.  The next step will be surfacing the seams with seam compound prior to painting the bottom and the topsides. Newt, Bruce, and Charles reefed and hammered, while Jeff primed and Lee prepared balls of cotton to keep the caulkers supplied.  We managed to caulk the entire boat in one day.

Newt caulks the garboard seam.
Jeff follows with a brush, painting primer over the cotton,
Lots of small tasks remain before the second whaleboat is complete, and time is growing shorter.  One item that can be checked off the list is the loggerhead, which functions as a brake when a whale has been harpooned. The loggerhead is another example of taking a round object like a tree, make it into a rectangular timber, and then make it round again.  Last week it was Jeff using a hand plane to make square timbers into round spars; this time, the job was done with a lathe by Charles.

Charles takes a crack at making square wood round again.
Work on spars continues, with Jeff still wielding his plane.  Two masts, one boom, and a gaff are complete, with more to come.

Two masts (on right) and a boom (in the middle). The boom has been oiled. 

Off to the side, Huffin has gotten her new transom top. The transom looks great, and will look even better with a few coats of varnish.  Then, back into the water she goes for another summer of rowing.

Huffin sporting her newly repaired transom.
La Amistad came in about 2:30 in the afternoon, shortly after high tide.  She needed all the water she could get in the basin, as she draws about 11 feet. A strong wind made maneuvering her into the basin and docking her a real challenge.
Amistad begins to drop sail as she turns past the USS New Jersey.
Under power, turning to back in to the dock.
Welcome to Philadelphia!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Spars and sawdust

Few boatshop tasks generate more wood shavings and sanding dust than spar making.  Fairing a carvel hull is certainly right up there in dust and shavings production, but we haven't done that very recently at WoW, and only the masochists on the team are complaining about that.  This week, Jeff is finishing up the masts for the two whaleboats, and is beginning to work on the booms and gaffs.  All spars will be made of Douglas fir, and we have acquired some beautiful, straight grained timbers for that purpose.  Although trees tend to be round, for some reason timbers tend to be square, so Jeff's first task is to make them round again.

Jeff does final planing on the second whaleboat mast
Moving the sanding block faster than the camera can capture!
Bruce, meanwhile, fitted the new transom plank onto our abused Whitehall, Huffin.  It is just about ready for fastening, after which much varnish will be applied, paint will be touched up, and Huffin will be ready for another season of rowing around the basin.
Bruce test fits the new transom board.
One or two swipes with the Ryoba saw and she'll be good to go.
Carl is on "special assignment" making boxes to replace the crumbling cardboard storage boxes that fill the supply room.  Carl is doing finger joint joinery on the boxes, and it looks like he will be turning them out until there is no more white cedar left on the east coast, or at least in the shop.

Carl adding another to his pile of boxes.
Meanwhile, work continues on the multitude of widgets and parts needed to complete the second whaleboat.  The launch celebration is scheduled for June 8, so she will need to be turned over for caulking and painting very soon.  Hopefully, the interior will be completely finished before flipping the boat.
This week, the mast trough and forward lifting ring were added.
Jeff fastens the mast stowage bracket to the aft deck.
Filing shoulders off carriage bolts to fasten the tabernacle.
Gluing up a white oak block for the loggerhead.
John is "detailing" the boat.  Here he cleans up some bedding compound squeezeout.
As planned, Suzy motored down the river for rigging and some final installations.  She looks much more distinguished and notably smaller floating beside the ISM dock than she did in past months in the shop.

Suzy at rest alongside the ISM dock, all painted and rigged and ready to sail again.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Big Empty Space

Suzy, the L. Francis Herreshoff Meadow Lark, left the shop on Tuesday, headed for Riverside, NJ and her return to the water.  She will return, via the river, to WoW shortly for rigging.  Her departure left the shop with a ballroom size space -- at least for a few hours.  It seems as if boatshops, like nature, abhor a vacuum. Consequently, by the end of Tuesday, a host of new nautical objects had been established and the shop is once again, happily crowded.

Suzy is hooked up and ready to roll
Bob gets ready for the big turn
Made it!
Bon Voyage, Suzy!

Much of the space is now occupied by huge Douglas fir timbers that are becoming masts for the whaleboats.  The masts are solid and will be heavy. The thought of stepping and unstepping them while at sea boggles the mind, but that is what was routinely during the whaling era.  The image that comes to mind is the flag raising at Iwo Jima, except that the platform on which the crew stood to raise the mast was narrow, uneven, and rocking unpredictably.
Suzy's former home is now a mast fabrication area.
Aside from being solid rather than hollow, and fir instead of Sitka spruce, the method of building the mast is the same as we always use.  First, the four sided timber is tapered per the design. Next, the timber is lined out into eight sides. Then, using a power plane, the square is shaved to the lines to make an octogon.  Next, the eight sided timber is lined out and planed again to 16 sides.  Finally, using a hand plane with a curved iron, the mast is rounded to its final shape.
Bruce planes the mast-to-be to 16 sides.
Also occupying Suzy's space is the Whitehall "Huffin."  She was the unfortnate victim of an overly exuberant youthful docking effort following a recent afternoon of rowing.  The top half of the transom, which in Whitehalls arches well over the sheer, slammed the dock full force -- one can only wonder how this was accomplished -- and it snapped off.  The repair involves fully removing the top section of the transom, cutting a new one, and installing it.  While Huffin is in the shop, she is being cleaned, sanded, painted, and varnished.
Honest! I had nothing to do with it!
Removing the remaining part of the upper plank.
With the boat out of the water and in the shop, it is a good time to remove, repair, and repaint parts that have seen hard duty, as well as a winter on the dock.  The Wooden Boat Factory kids applied a couple of coats of new paint to the Whitehall sole sections.
Sole and thwarts painted and drying.
Our whaleboat launch is now four weeks away, and the last bits of whaling equipment are being fabricated and installed.  Nick put the finishing touches on the rudder for whaleboat number two, attaching pintels and cheeks with bedding compound and copper rivets. The rudder was lofted, a pattern cut, and the actual material machined, all by students in the shop.
The rudder clamped up for some final sanding.
Charles worked on the aft deck of whaleboat number two, carving the builder signature in the lion's tongue, and fastening the steering oar bracket and the remainder of the aft deck in place.  Then, the lion's tongue was bedded and screwed down to the deck.

The patterns for ISM - WoW are taped to the lion's tongue
The completed lion's tongue awaits fastening.

Friday, May 3, 2013


With a long awaited and much anticipated Spring finally here, it is almost time for the three boats that now occupy the WoW shop floor to splash.  The Francis Herreshoff Meadow Lark, Suzy is all put back together, and is sporting a fresh coat of paint, on both her bottom and hull, as well as new lettering on her transom.  She is a good looking old girl, and we'll be proud to send her on her way, better than when she arrived in so many ways.  Suzy is due to leave the shop next Tuesday, assuming that her reconditioned prop arrives by then.  
New lettering on a freshly painted transom
You can see your reflection in Suzy's hull
Freshly painted leeboards await reinstallation
And the prop is where?
The first Beetle replica whaleboat is complete, and ready to launch, and the second one is moving quickly toward completion.  All hands were working on various projects related to that goal.  Thwarts have been cut and installed, and now the thwart knees must be bent into position and fastened.  Brackets, which fill the space between the hull and the bent oak knees, must be precisely cut and fitted.  Also, the many trim pieces unique to whaleboats must be fabricated and installed. We have about four weeks left until the launch party, and there is still a lot of work to be done.
John and Jeff work on knee brackets. 
Jeff fits a knee.
Steve works on an oak rail spacer between the bowchocks and the clumsy cleat.
Here is the lion's tongue, cut out and ready fitting.
Nick wrestles the student-made rudder into position for a test fitting.