Header photo (detail) courtesy Michael Eudenbach

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Planking taking shape

Wendy Byar

Four planks up counting the garboard

Plank 5 going on

5th plank
The 2nd thru 6th planks are clench nailed to battens. It is sort of like carvel with a backing plank. I suppose the battens reinforce the seams since the planks are thin for lightness and they are not nailed to the molds. It takes some care with the anvil and hammer to keep everything aligned so neither the planks or battens split. The frames are fitted after the boat is planked. It is taking a beautiful shape. The 5th and 6th planks were wumped, or prebent to a cupped shape before being hung. the last two planks will be hung lapped.

Courtesy Wendy Byar

Gina Pickton

Wendy Byar and Newt Kirkland attaching a plank

Knot drilled out with Forstner bit and replaced with a bung

Jeff and Newt have been making good progress with planking the boat. The process of putting a plank on is the same for each one, a set of steps that gets repeated over and over again until all 16 are on

We start by spiling the pattern and preparing the boards. The cedar we have is not long enough to span the entire length of the 28ft whaleboat so we have to scarf two pieces together. After planing each board to the proper thickness, we use our pattern to cut the proper shape into the boards, making sure to leave enough room for the scarf. Next we repair any parts of the plank that need it, drilling out knots and replacing them with bungs and adding dutchmen where necessary.

As the planks work their way up around the turn of the bilge, they get wider and wider. In order for the board to take the curve we bend them before attaching them to the boat. To do this we use a process called Whomping.

You can see more about how we do this by watching the videos above. Narrated by John Schwarzenbach

courtesy Gina Picton

Thomas Armstrong

Wen Byar clench nailing

From Wendy's blog Green Boats:
"Here is the skinny. We drill the holes through the plank and batten, and place the nail oval perpendicular to the grain. Back it with the iron next to the hole and tap the nail thru from the plank side until it just clears the batten. Move the iron over the nail. Hold it at an angle so the nail starts to turn back into the batten. Tap it home flush with the plank surface."

I was at the workshop Thursday and it was a dark day, which produced this combination of natural and artificial lighting.

She's a long boat at 28'

A nicely turned bilge

Newt and Jeff

She's really taking shape

photos Thomas Armstrong

I made my way down to the Workshop last Thursday to see the progress on the whaleboat. Coincidentally Gina Pickton and the new workshop director Bruce MacKenzie (more on Bruce later @ 70.8%) had put together some photos and videos for me. Wen Byar had also sent me some updates. The boat looks swell and is really graceful, and the work looks top notch. My first impression was of how long, and how sweet she is. The videos will outline the process of wumping or whomping, basically steaming a plank to make it more pliable form fitting the curve of the boat. Thanks ladies and gents, you are doing exceptional work. Special thanks to John Schwarzenbach for his narration on the videos.

Original post Thomas Armstrong for Whaleboats for the CW Morgan

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Planking begins...

Garboard in place and a new plank being fitted.



More frames on the bending jig

This shot shows how the garboard fits into it's rabbet, or groove, on the keel.

This from about eye level

This photo shows how the garboard conforms to the molds.

all photos Thomas Armstrong

After a great afternoon aboard Gazela for the pirate battle (see 70.8%), I dropped in on Gina at the boatshop to see what progress had been made of the boat. They've started planking but only just. Much more time has been spent over the last month or so bending the approximately100 frames needed for the boat. The actual figure is around 76, but Gina explained they wanted a few extras so they would not have to do them later. As you can see there's a rather impressive pile!
As for the planking, both garboards have been fitted into their rabbet along the keel and a partial first plank or strake as well. Once the frames are all done the planking should proceed quickly. Exciting!
Since John Brady is spending so much time running the museum, a new boatbuilder has been chosen to oversee the day to day running of the boatshop. His name is Bruce McKenzie and I should be meeting him soon.

Stay tuned.

Original post Thomas Armstrong for Whaleboats for the CW Morgan

Monday, August 8, 2011

More progress

Once the keel was laid and the stem attached we realized that the stern post had sprung and no longer would work for the boat. We didn’t have the oak to replace it right away so we moved on to the next step of attaching the molds in place and squaring them up.

Our oak showed up last week, so right away we went to work bending a new stern post.

It took 4 tries to get it right, but we got it.

Final stern post ready to cut it’s rabbet.

With all the oak in we moved forward milling the oak for the 100 frames we need to bend.

Jack and Rachel getting oak stock ready for milling.

Jeff and George determining the right length to cut stock.

While everything else was going on, we still found time to start spiling the garboard planks. In the above photo you can see them resting on the molds waiting to be finished.

all photos and captions courtesy Gina Pickton

Well, as you can see here, things are moving along at the Workshop. Gina has once again told the story rather smartly. Looks as though planking will have begun as you read this or soon after, as the garboard planks are already cut. I'm hoping to hear from Geoff McKonly soon on the New York team's progress.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Building Progress

We’ve made some progress on the Whaleboat in the past few weeks. Going has been a bit slow as we have been waiting for our oak to be milled. We’ve made jigs and patterns in preparation.

Vincent and Salim are working from plans to make patterns.

George Clark is working on the pattern for the rudder

We’ve shaped the keel...

and attached it to the Strongback in place

Mystic Seaport sent down planking cedar and green oak for the stem and stern posts and the next couple weeks were filled with milling the cedar.

Jake Davidson and Alex Miller getting the cedar ready for resawing

We’ve also posted a video of resawing the cedar with the jig that Jeff designed.

Once the mess from the cedar milling was done, the crew got to work on bending the stem and stern posts

Stem and Stern post bending jig.

The whole crew gets in on the steam bending action.

While on the jig we drilled and riveted the posts to help them keep their shape.

Nick Pagan and Charles Bernstein getting ready to attach a strap to the post to help it keep it’s bend over time.

Charles Bernstein and Jeff Huffenberger attaching the stem post to the keel. Jeff welded up a bracket to help support and keep it in place while the build happens.

all photos courtesy Gina Pickton

Thanks to Gina Pickton for this update on the progress of the whaleboat build. The captions are all hers and pretty much tell the story. This I think brings us up to about 2 weeks ago, as I can see that work has gone beyond what's seen here, with molds in place and planking to begin soon.
You can follow the progress on a daily basis by visiting the webcam. More soon!

Originally posted @ Whaleboats for the CW Morgan

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Molds and Jigs

Workshop volunteer Paul Connors feeding the planer

Rocking the Boat participants unloading the goodies from Phily

Molds and one of the bending jigs unloaded at Rocking the Boat's
Brooklyn workshop.

A jig for bending the stem.

Jig and steambox

These two photos are of the frame bending jig. A smaller version has been built for the knees.
Notice that
next to the jig is a steambox setup. The pieces will be steamed to make them pliable before going onto the jig.

All photos courtesy Gina Pickton/Workshop on the Water

Boatbuilding glossary found at Inthe Boatshed, courtesy Gavin Atkin

Gina & Co. have been busy at the boatshop as the project heats up, with help from the CHAD group. Her report:

"We’ve been making some progress on both getting boats out of the shop, and moving forward on the whaleboat. One boat left last week and two more will be out the door next week. Then we will finally have the room freed up in the shop for the whaleboat.
On Friday we delivered some goodies to Rocking the Boat. They now have the keel pattern, the knee and frame bending jig patterns, the stem bending jig, the strongback and 8 molds. We’ve also made our own stem bending jig and are on our way to completing our own knee and frame bending jigs."

Once the strongback is set up and the molds attached, the fun should begin in earnest.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Clamp being filed

Clamp being filed

Clamp being sanded

Jeff and Nicholas admiring a students work

all photos courtesy Gina Picton

From my esteemed correspondent Gina Picton comes this brief summary of the weeks progress on the whaleboats:

"The CHAD students were in again this week. They are working on the frame bending jig. I’ve attached some pictures of them working with teacher Jeff Gerstemeier (in the hat) and workshop volunteer and instructor Nicholas Pagan. The jig has many built in clamps to hold each frame in place and the students are learning to use the different tools needed to complete the project. They have 29 ready to go, with just a few more to finish."

Gina says a couple more boats will leave the boatshop this week, allowing work to begin on setting up the support structure need for building the whaleboat. There is a possibility of some names to apply to the student photos above and also some photos they've taken of the work as well! Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

the Whaleboat

Artwork from the logbook of the ship Iris while on its voyage from 1843-1847. The painting depicts a sperm whale upending one of the whaleboats chasing it.

Courtesy Girl on a Whaleship

This detailed painting of the killing of a whale by a whaleboat crew was done on the inside cover of a logbook. The logbook covers two voyages; the ship Alexander Barclay, 1837-1840 and Charles W. Morgan, 1841-1842.

Courtesy Girl on a Whaleship

Diagram ({{Information |Description={{en|1=Side and interior plan of whale-boat equipped with apparatus of capture, &c. Noted on the drawing as Plate 192. sec 5 v ii pp241, 252. not clear why the file name says fig 193.}} |Source=NOAA Photolibrary Image ID: figb01)

Courtesy NOAA

Azorean whaleboat racing

C0urtesy Azorean Whaleboats

The Queen's Ranger's whaleboat after its trip from Crown Point to Fort Ticonderoga
(courtesy David Michlovitz)

Courtesy Fort Ticonderoga Brigade

The past--a district Missionary's whaleboat

In early days the work of the "Southern Cross" was supplemented by the district missionaries in their whaleboats, but in recent year these have been replaced by launches and schooners

Courtesy Anglican History Oceania 1849-1949

from 'Into the Deep', a documentary by Ric Burns
The history of the American whaling industry from its 17th-century origins in drift and shore whaling off the coast of New England and Cape Cod, through the golden age of deep ocean whaling, and on to its demise in the decades following the American Civil War.
Find here, and here.

I just happened to catch the airing of this documentary on PBS, I rarely watch TV so it was extremely fortuitous. I was deeply moved and impressed by this work.
Ric Burns is without doubt a most discerning and articulate documentry filmaker. I recommend this film highly. It focuses acutely on the wreck of the Essex, an American whaleship and more generally on American whaling. The wreck of the Essex is reputed to be one of the inspirations for Moby Dick, and the documentary focuses quite a bit on Melville's celebrated work. Do not miss this!

Courtesy Ric Burns, PBS, and Mystic Seaport

Aquatic Mammals
Caption: Darting Harpoon into Sperm Whale
Image Date 1926
Subject Whaleboats
Sperm whale
Image Source Author Cook, John A.
Image Source Title Pursuing the Whale : a Quarter-Century of Whaling in the Arctic
Pub. Info. Boston, MA : Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926
Page No./Plate No. Facing page 8
Digital collection Freshwater and Marine Image Bank
Repository Most materials are located in the University of Washington Libraries. Images were scanned by staff of the UW Fisheries-Oceanography Library
Copyright Materials in the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank are in the public domain. No copyright permissions are needed. Acknowledgement of the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank as a source for borrowed images is requested.
Ordering Information The University of Washington Libraries does not provide reproductions of this image. This record contains a citation for this image. If you want to use the scanned image, acknowledgement of the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank as a source for borrowed images is requested.
Type Image

University of Washington Libraries

A whaleboat chasing its prey

Courtesy Girl on a Whaleship

From the introduction to ' The Whaleboat A study of Design, Construction and Use from 1850 to 1970 by Willits D. Ansel, published by the Mystic Seaport Museum:

The term "whaleboat" properly describes boats used for hunting whales, lthough it has also been applied to other boats having similar features, generally sharp ends. Whaleboats ere used by the thousands aboard American whaleships in the middle of the nineteenth century and, in lesser numbers, aboard the vessels of toher nations and at shore stations around the world. The whaleboat was a double ended, light, open boat with a length at that time of between twenty-seven and thirty-one feet and a beam of slightly more than one-fifth the length. It was pulled by oars and sailed. It was a fine sea boat, not only adapted to its function but also handsome. Though there were variations in size, lines, and construction, the general characteristics were well defined.
The whaleboat was once the most widespread of all small craft. In the late 1800s it was known in the Pacific in such widely separated places as Easter Island, Tasmania, the Bonin Islands and the Aleutians. In the Atlantic, it appeared in the north off Greenland, in the Azores, the Grenadines, and south to Tristan da Cunha and still farther south to Antarctica. In the Indian Ocean it was seen in the Mozambique Channel, Kerguelen Island and Cocos. It was used in the Arctic Ocean at Herschel Island on one side and Spitsbergen on the other. Whaleboats were seen in the most remote places in the sea.
The last voyage of a whaleship that carried whaleboats was in the 1920s. At a few far scattered places the boats continued to be used for shore whaling, as at Tong and Norfolk Island in the Pacific and at Bequia and the Portuguese Islands in the Atlantic. Two whaleboats are still maintained at Bequia and whaling on Pico and Madeira.* In 1969 there was whaling at Fiji. Elsewhere on remote islands the type survived for carrying cargo and passengers.
In the United States, where the whaleboat was carried to its final stage of development and where the boats were build by the thousands, very few remain outside of museums, although an undermined number survive in Alaska.
Much has been written in praise of whaleboats:
Their shape "ensures great swiftness as well as qualities of an excellent seaboat." 1
The boats were dry and rode "as gracefully as an albatross...for lightness and form, for carrying capacity compared with its weight and sea-going qualities, for speed andfacility of movement at the word of command, for theplacing of menat the best advantage in the exercise of their power, by the nicest adaptation of the varying length of the oar to its position in the boat, and lastly, for a simpicity of construction which renders repairs practicable on ships, the whaleboat is simply as perfect as the combined skill" of generations of boatbuilders could make it. 2

As surf boats the whaleboats were "without rival, better than a lifeboat which is a compromise because it has to carry a larger number of people...The whaleboat was the best seaboat that man could devise with no limits to size, weight, or model. "3 A whaleboat type, locally called a longboat, was adapted on Tristan da Cunha around 1886, after fifteen men were lost in a lifeboat. The longboat coxswains conider their light, canvas covered boats fine surf boats. 4
Howard Chapelle cites the whaleboat's reputation for good performance under oars and sail under all conditions.5 Others noted their maneuverability and speed and, last but not least, the cheapness of their construction.
Such praise was deserved. However, the whaleboat was the product of compromises, and was excelled in some functions by specialized boats. There were faster pulling boats, such a certain ones used in nineteenth-century smuggling in southern England, and certainly some lifesaving boats were safer in surf or a breaking sea. In terms of all-around performance, however, the whaleboat rated very high.

1. Charles M. Scammon, The Maritime Mammels of the Northewest coast of North America and the Whale Fishery, rev. ed. (Riverside: Manessier Publishing Co., 1969), p.224.

2. William Davis, Nimrods of the Sea, rev. ed. (North Quincy: The Christopher Publishing House, 1972), pp157-58.

3. Clifford W. Ashley, The Yankee Whaler, (Garden City: Halcyon House, 1942), p.59.

4. Notes on the Tristan da Cunha boats were provided by the island's administrator, J. I. H. Fleming, in 1973.

5. Howard I. Chapelle, The National Watercraft Collection, (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office. 1960), p. 262

* Whaling was banned in the Azores in either 1986 or 1987, even though other small groups of shore based whaling, such as the Inuit and the Bequian whalers were allowed to continue as their whaling is considered 'indigenous'. It's my belief that the Azoreans should also be allowed to take whales based on their long standing practice. (ed.)

While not meant to condone the wholesale industrial slaughter of whales by, in particular, Japan and Norway, I do feel the history and development of the whaleboat a legitimate area of inquiry.

Currently I am writing a weblog about the construction of two whaleboats being built to fit out the restoration of the Charles W Morgan underway at Mystic Seaport. The boats are being built to historic standards at both the Independence Seaport Museum's boatshop in Philadelphia, PA and at Rocking the Boat in Brooklyn, NY.