Header photo (detail) courtesy Michael Eudenbach

Monday, March 21, 2011

Whaleboat Models

Beetle Whaleboat

Photo 1—Port side view: This was a Beetle whaleboat, so-called as they were built by Charles Beetle, a whaleboat builder from New Bedford, Massachusetts; in fact, the name “Beetle” was burned into two places on the completed boats. This model was built to a scale where 1/2-inch represents one foot and was the subject of a two-part series of articles published in Seaways Journal of Maritime History. The model was based on the last boat Beetle built. On completion, it was shipped to the Mariners' Museum where it can still be seen today.

Photo 2—Midships and a look at the gear: The gear aboard a whaleboat was highly specialized and included not just harpoons used to fasten to a whale and the lances that were used to kill the creature, but also the line tubs. In this case the tubs were built with individual staves, as were the baling scoop and the fresh water keg. The harpoons and lance tips, the boat knife and hatchet head were made from nickel silver, oxidized to a soft patina representing age, and the edges were then polished to simulate having been recently sharpened.

Photo 3—Interior detail: Whaleboats were ceiled inside, meaning that they were planked inside and outside the frames. This model is also an example of a painted model as opposed to being polished Boxwood. At the right-hand end of the last photo of the interior of the boat the compass can be seen, required for situations where a boat lost sight of its parent ship. The compass in this model boat was gimbaled as were the real ones. There are paddles in the bottom of the boat used when quietly approaching a whale on the surface. All of the equipment has been aged to represent usage.

While this model was built to be displayed on a regular base and mounted on posts, Roger decided to see what it would look like set up on a simulated beach. This was done in his basement, on a piece of cardboard with a layer of sand scattered on it and two different coloured backdrops.

The model is fourteen inches long.

photos and text courtesy
The Internet Craftsmanship Museum

From 1720 to 1920 nearly 60,000 whaleboats were consumed by the American whaling industry. With a useful life of no more than three years, whaleboats were discarded on the spot throughout the coastal U.S. and around the world. Remarkably, only a dozen or two have survived to become part of today's museum collections.

In 1916, the Dartmouth Historical Society commissioned the building of a half sized model of the bark LAGODA. Local whaleboat builder Joshua Delano was retained to build the seven half-sized model whaleboats needed for the project. Delano built these models according to the design of the full-sized boats he had built for the whaling industry for more than forty years.

Whaling historian Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr. made a thorough study of Delano’s half-sized boats in order to produce this kit of a uniquely American working craft.

photos and text courtesy Historic Ships

Whalers had no equal in handling an open boat at sea. At a time when whales were still plentiful as well as fair game, they were hunted in relatively small open rowboats. They approached a whale closely so as not to miss with a toothpick-like harpoon. At least when comparing it with the bulk of a seventy foot long leviathan sperm whale. And the Kings of the Sea didn't take kindly to being hunted, giving rise to the shanty of the harpooner: A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat.The whaleboat rode the waves like an albatross. For lightness, grace and speed it simply had no peer. The buckets held up to a mile of line. The harpooner would stand on the stern holding his harpoon. A successful throw might mean a long chase, the whale taking the boat in tow. The harpoon line would be belayed on a single pollard on the deck. The double ends made it easy to move in two directions, a slap of the tail of an angry whale had better be avoided. Our hand built whaleboat is built lapstrake planks-on-frame.
Whaling tools in amazing detail.

photos and text courtesy Mallcarts

"Thar she blows!" The hard men of the sea take to their boats in pursuit of the gentle giants of the ocean.

photos and text courtesy The Miniatures Page

Nautical dioramas, This whale boat is completely outfitted with whaling tools of exceptional detail, including harpoons, hooks, daggers, flensing knives, gaffs, etc. The hull is crafted of individual ivory "planks". This is a six-man, single mast whaleboat. It would have been one of four carried on a whaling ship. Its crew would have included a coxswain, four rowers, and a harpooner up front. The model has been mounted in a fine mahogany and brass case. Boat measures 10 and one quarter inches long by 2 and three quarters inches wide by 2 and one quarter inches high. Case / Mount: 13 and one half inches long by 6 and one half inches wide by 5 and three quarter inches high.

photos and text courtesy One Of A Kind Antiques

While we're waiting for the whaleboat builds to begin I thought it might be nice to look at some whaleboats. I didn't find a lot to show on the internet, but I did find lots of material relating to models of whaleboats, apparently in far greater abundance than the real thing. Not surprising given that your average whaleboat had a life expectancy of about three years. Lightly built and put to hard use, the boats were soon discarded and replaced. Which no doubt kept their builders happy. Wendy Byar actually spurred me into action when she put a post on FB of a model. I had been looking at them, but then it clicked.
N Roger Cole built the model at the top of the post. He's a meticulous craftsman based in Canada and does his research. I believe his model is built to the same plans that our boats will be. There's an extensive bio on him here. For the other models I have supplied what information was available. Hope this will serve as an appetizer prior to getting to the main course.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Whalebones and Whaleboats

For Ycrow. Visited the New Bedford Whaling Museum to answer your question about scale.
A mature male sperm whale is about 35-50 years old, 50-60 feet long and weighs between 43 and 45 tons. That would make him about two times longer than a whaleboat. A fully loaded whaleboat with crew ranged from slightly less than one ton to about a ton & a half according to material published in The Whaleboat by W. Ansel.

The pictures I took show a sperm whale skeleton next to a wooden whaleboat in the museum.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lofting 1.0, preliminaries


photo Thomas Armstrong

Sorry about the quality here, but a more defined photo might infringe on Mystic copyright.
Drawn by RC Allyn in 1974, lines taken off a Beetle Mfg. Co. boat that arrived with the CW Morgan.

photo Thomas Armstrong

Batten pinned

photo courtesy Wendy Byar

Lofting floor

photo courtesy Wendy Byar

photo courtesy Wendy Byar

from Wikipedia:

Lofting is a Drafting technique (sometimes using mathematical tables) whereby curved lines are drawn on wood and the wood then cut for advanced woodworking. The technique can be as simple as bending a flexible object (such as a long cane) so that it passes over three non-linear points and scribing the resultant curved line, or plotting the line using computers or mathematical tables.
Lofting is particularly useful in boat building, when it is used to draw and cut pieces for hulls and keels, which are usually curved, often in three dimensions.
Lofting is the transfer of a Lines Plan to a Full Sized Plan. This helps to assure that the boat will be accurate in its layout and pleasing in appearance. There are many methods to loft a set of plans.
Generally, boat building books have a detailed description of the lofting process, beyond the scope of this article. Plans can be lofted on a level wooden floor, marking heavy paper such as Red Rosin for the full sized plans or directly on plywood sheets.
The first step is to lay out the grid, mark the Base Line along the length of the paper or plywood sheet. Then nail Battens every 12 inches (or more in some cases) where the station lines are to be set as a mark for the perpendicular line, which is marked with a T-square. The previous steps are followed in turn by marking the Top Line and the Water Line. Before continuing make sure to check the lines by using the Pythagorean theorem and make sure the grid is square.
The second step is to mark the points from the table of offsets. All measurements off the table of offsets are listed in Millimeters or the Feet, Inches and Eighths. The points are plotted at each station then use a small nail and a batten to Fair (draw with a fair curve) the boat's lines.

from Wendy Byar:

"The beginning of a new boat means drawing the shapes full size from a set of offsets (feet-inches-eighths) that determine points. Battens bent to meet these points are adjusted for fair curves.

The plans for the whaleboats being built at Workshop on the Water and Rocking the Boat are available from Mystic Seaport. These drawings were done by R.C Allyn in 1973. They are the lines from a Beetle Whaleboat. Beetle built about 50 boats a year between 1834 and 1854. A set of lines like this gives all the information a builder needs to produce a boat with the given shape.
The plans for the Whaleboat have a table of offsets in the corner. The offsets are read in feet-inches- and eighths of inches. These coordinates specify points on given lines. They are the given locations where a long flexible batten may be bent along to make a fair line.
The lines on the plans are drawn in three axes, or planes intersecting each other at right angles for the most part. (the diagonals make a fourth set of planes, not at right angles.)

The whaleboat we are building at the Workshop on the Water is about 28 feet long, so we need a drawing surface at least that long.
Four sheets of luan were screwed to the wooden floor and painted white for good contrast with the pencil lines. The paint makes it easier to erase, too.
A baseline was laid down using a very tightly stretched string. Marks were made along one side of the string and a 30' straight line was drawn using a straight edge to connect the marks. This line needed to be true since the rest of the boats geometry is drawn in relation to it.
Station lines were set up every three feet along the base line as indicated on the plans. These lines are 90ยบ to the baseline. They were drawn using the 3, 4, 5 triangle method to assure right angles. Each station line was labeled with its number."

There's more to come on the lofting soon, The photos above are from a trial lofting for educational purposes, the boat will be re-lofted soon, and we plan to follow that. (ed.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Whaleboats 101

Whaleboat in davits on the CW Morgan, Mystic Seaport

photo courtesy Mystic Seaport

Whaleboat exhibit at Chubb's Wharf at Mystic. This boat came to Mystic in 1941 aboard the CW Morgan but is believed to have been built before 1920. It is fully kitted out with whaling gear representative of the 1880's.

photo courtesy Mystic Seaport

Newly minted (2003) whaleboat built at Mystic by a team headed by Walter and Willits Ansel.
Willits came out of retirement for this boat, to build 'one more', the project manager being his son Walter. Tom Jackson was a member of the team and wrote an article for WoodenBoat which is must read.

Photo courtesy Michael Eudenbach

Long and lean, fast and graceful, the brutality of the whaleboat as an eloquently evolved weapon is belied by the elegance of their lines. Light, efficient and lethal. These are the boats that were employed by whaling ships to close the end game. They are an example of the evolution of form in service to function that has resulted in sheer artistry born of utility.
The last traditional whaleboat built in this country was built in 1933 by the beetle Mfg. Co. of New Bedford MA. for the Maritime Museum in Newport News. The boats had long been built by Beetle and they supplied much of the American whaling industry. The legacy of American whaleboats has been kept alive by Mystic Seaport and in particular Willits Ansel who, while serving as a shipwright at Mystic initiated the the building of whaleboats there. He also 'wrote the book' on whaleboats. I cannot explain the crazy price for the book at Amazon right now, I recently ordered the book for around $35. Take a look also at Tom Jackson's article on Willits and his son Walter building a whaleboat at Mystic featured in WoodenBoat #171. The boats we will be following here are being built to plans from Mystic, I believe Beetle plans. The work should commence at the ISM's WoW in a couple of weeks, lofting has already taken place and we should have an article on that in a day or so from one of my companions or guest editors in this endeavor, Wen Byar. Hope you enjoy this!