Header photo (detail) courtesy Michael Eudenbach

Friday, October 26, 2012

Beetle Boat Shop begins their Whaleboat

Bill Sauerbrey begins the lofting.

Manny Palomo work with Bill to clamp the freshly steamed white oak stem onto the bending jig,

The now pliable stem is pulled right around the jig and clamped into place.

Using the lofting as a guide, the molds are fashioned.

The completed backbone is set upright. It will be transferred to the strongback, pictured to the left and on the floor, for the build.

Mystic Seaport sent a 1985 Willits Ansel whaleboat up to Beetle for display in the shop and for the inspection of constuction details.

Here she is set up in the shop. Note the frame bending jig in the foreground, I suspect from the original Beetle Mfg. Co.

Molds set on the backbone with battens in place.

Stem detail

First two planks in.

The Beetle Boat Shop crew: Front Row (left to right): Bill Sauerbrey, Charlie York, Michelle Buoniconto, Bill Womack
Back Row (left to right): Manny Palomo, Mark Williams, Jonathan Richards, Marc Blandin
Shop Dog: Jessie

All photos courtesy Beetle Boat Shop

Michelle Buonicouto at Beetle has been very cooperative, sending me a link to their 
Flicker page and a history of the company and it's relevance to the Whaleboat project. I do not think I need add anything, this says it all:

HISTORY FULL CIRCLE – Building of a New Beetle Whaleboat

The last surviving whaling ship built in America, the Charles W. Morgan, was built in 1841 in New Bedford, MA at the yard of Jethro and Zachariah Hillman.  It was one of 75 whaling ships out of New Bedford harbor that year, with the peak being in 1857 with 329 vessels.  The rapid expansion of the industry made New Bedford the Whaling Capital of the World and one of the wealthiest cities in the country. 
It was in support of the whaling industry that James Beetle started building Beetle whaleboats and went to work for the Hillmans.  From 1834 – 1854 he built over 1,000 whale boats (or about 50/year), including some of the boats for the Charles W. Morgan.  James Beetle had three sons, two of which, Charles and John, continued the tradition of building whaleboats at the Beetle shop on Rodney French Boulevard in New Bedford, while James Clarence Beetle moved to San Francisco where he built whaleboats for the west coast fleet.  As the whaling industry began to decline after the civil war, the Beetle family had turned to building pleasure crafts of all types in addition to the whaleboats. 
It was in 1921 that the Charles W. Morgan went on her last sail, and was then exhibited at Colonel Edward H.R. Green’s estate at Round Hill in South Dartmouth, MA.  Ironically, it was that same year that John Beetle built the first 12’ Beetle Cat sailboat, which is still being built today by the Beetle Shop in Wareham, MA.  Using the same materials used in building a whaleboat (cedar and oak), it was a natural progression, and the sailboat quickly caught on as a one design racing fleet at yacht clubs all over New England.
In 1924 Charles Beetle was asked by Col. Green to build a whaleboat to go on the Charles W. Morgan, as his father had done many years before.  Charles Beetle built his last whaleboat in 1933 for the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, VA.  This whaleboat would become significant later, as its lines and construction plans were taken off and became part of the Mystic Seaport plan collection in 1973. 
 In 1941, the Charles W. Morgan was moved to the Mystic Seaport Museum to become one of its flagships.  In keeping with the Seaport’s ongoing mission to preserve the boat, the Morgan was hauled on November 1, 2008 and is currently undergoing a major restoration.  In conjunction with this restoration was a renewed interest in the Beetle whaleboats for the 2014 relaunching of the Charles W. Morgan.   
It is here that history came full circle, as the New Bedford Whaling Museum, in conjunction with the Beetle Boat Shop, is once again building one of the Beetle whaleboats for the Charles W. Morgan.

Original post Thomas Armstrong for Whaleboats for the CW Morgan

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Progress report on the Seaport's Whaleboat(s)

A shapely lass

A work in progress, to be sure, and progress is being made.


rudder and

The loggerhead is a kind of bollard around which the harpoon line is turned to ease the strain.

The massive bow chocks seen in this photo were designed to take the strain of the harpoon line once a whale was in play.

all photos copyright Thomas Armstrong
The Seaport's whaleboat is coming along. Most of what remains are the bits and pieces that will pull it all together, and the parts, some already in place, exclusive to a whaleboat. The main task ahead is building and fitting the spars and sails.
ISM,via the boatshop, is looking to build a second whaleboat for the Morgan, and possibly the spars for all the project boats. The list is growing. There's the Rocking the Boat build, Lowell's has started theirs, Beetle Mfg. Co. is building and word has it that The Apprenticeshop and Alexandria Seaport have or will soon begin building. I'll hopefully have updates on all these projects soon.
The latest info I have is that the second whaleboat and the rig building projects at Workshop on the Water are still only partially funded.  If you are interested in helping, please contact Lily Williams in the development office at ISM. 
originally posted on Whaleboats for the CW Morgan by Thomas Armstrong

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A smattering of the whaleboats around Mystic Seaport

all photos copyright Thomas Armstrong

At Mystic Seaport over the weekend for the WoodenBoat Show, I kept running into whaleboats. While these shots are of three different boats, there is a fourth, in the water, which I thought I had captured as well, but apparently not. Guess I'll need to go back. None of the  Morgan's original boats survive, though these replicas do apppear to have some age.

Be sure and look to 70.8% for a piece on the planking of the Morgan, an astounding undertaking. 
Geoff McKonley was at the show and promises to update me on Rocking the Boat's progress. I also met with Graham McKay of Lowell's Boat Shop in Amesbury MA. who reports he's 70% funded and is looking to start building in October, feeding us updates regularly. I also heard that the Apprenticeshop will be building a whaleboat as well, though I have yet to confirm this.

originally posted on Whaleboats for the CW Morgan by Thomas Armstrong

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Whaleboat Update


 Newt Kirkland helping John Schwarzenbach installing ribs. Tough job! Very meticulous.

All the ribs installed

John and Newt checking position before installing the port
riser, which is the upper, inner plank.

 Newt and John actually positioning the centerboard
for install. Not as simple as it looks!

Newt sitting on the installed centerboard, working at getting
the long bolts in. They go all the way through the centerboard and the
keel! There were issues, but Newt got it done.

The floor of the warp box, before the thigh board

Thigh board being installed in the bow. The half circle is called the clumsy cleat. Used by for the (harpooner?) to  lean or brace against.

The hinged mast tabernacle, useful for quickly lowering sail during a whale hunt.

All photos and captions above courtesy George Clarke 

 Bow shot as of June 6

Gina Pickton filling me in on the progress made.

This stern shot clearly shows the combination of carvel and lapstrake planking.

It's my understanding that the combination of two different styles of planking styles is practically motivated. Carvel, in the water, is much quieter than lapstrake, with lapstrake being stronger above to handle increased stresses.

Centerboard thwart

Looking toward the bow from just behind the centerboard case. That spar does not belong to the whaleboat.
The above six photos and captions copyright Thomas Armstrong

First let me welcome a new eye and voice helping out with this post. George Clarke is a workshop volunteer and has been photographing the whaleboat progress and posting to the WOW Facebook  page. I welcome his help.

It's been quite some time since we posted here and a lot has been done. I asked Gina for a laundry list of work accomplished since our last post:

"Here’s a list of all that has been done in the past few months. We’ve made some good progress. The whaleboat was not worked on during the month of March as the whole crew moved over to make cannon carriages or the month of June when the whole crew went to work on Whitehalls.  

All the frames
Centerboard and Centerboard trunk
Lions tongue
Seat riser and thwarts
2 Ceiling planks
Bow chock
Mast trough
Mast Tabernacle
Warp Box
Aft deck

I recently received an email from Lowell's Boat Shop vis a vis their beginning a fund raising campaign for their whaleboat build. If you are in their area, please give them a hand.

Also must see is Tom Jackson's piece on the whaleboats in the currents section of WoodenBoat #226, May /June 2012. 

Hopefully we'll have an update from Geoff McKinley at Rocking the Boat soon. In the meantime you can enjoy a flickr set of their progress here. (scroll down a bit)

Originally published by Thomas Armstrong in Whaleboats for the CW Morgan

Monday, January 9, 2012

Planking completed

It’s been a busy couple of months and the planking is now complete.

Volunteer Rachel Gordon, back for Christmas break, is helping with the frame patterns.

All the work last year bending frames has come in handy as framing has been started. Installing each frame is a lot of work and it comes in handy having a supply of frames already made.

First mold is no longer needed and was removed to make more room.

Randy Dearlove checking his measurements.

Photos and captions courtesy Gina Pickton

Lowell's Boat Shop

All rights reserved

Looks like the good folks at the boatshop have indeed been busy. Planking is finished and framing begun. Notice in the first photo that the top two planks are lapstrake. I'm sure you'll all join me in extending Gina, Bruce, Jeff Huffenberger, Newt Kirkland and all the volunteers involved a hearty well done. There's lots yet to be done but it's nice to see the project advancing and looking like a whaleboat. I'll get down there soon and follow up with some more photos.

Interestingly, I received an email from Graham MacKay, Manager of Lowell's Boat Shop in Amesbury MA saying that they are currently fundraising to build yet another whaleboat for the Morgan, beginning this coming fall. Lowell's was for decades a successful family owned concern, is on the National Historic Register and is somewhat uniqe in being both an ongoing commercial boatyard and a museum. From the website:

Established in 1793, Lowell's Boat Shop is the oldest continuously operating boat shop in the United States and is cited as the birthplace of the legendary fishing dory. Lowell’s is the only remaining survivor of the area’s world-renowned dory manufacturing industry that produced in excess of a quarter of a million dories over a period of two centuries. Building more than 2000 boats in 1911, this business was one of the first in the Nation to employ a seminal form of assembly line manufacturing.
With the founding of his company, Simeon Lowell made radical innovations to traditional boat design. Known for their efficiency, durability and sea worthiness, Lowell dories became the heart and soul of the Gloucester fishing fleet. In the waning days of the great fishing industry, recreational boaters turned to Lowell dories for the same qualities that attracted the fishermen. Rowing clubs, hunting camps, the Boy and Girl Scouts and the Lifesaving Service all sought Lowell dories and skiffs for their maritime experiences.
Conveyed through seven generations of the Lowell family, Lowell’s Boat Shop was passed to the Odell family in the 1980’s and then to the Newburyport Maritime Society in the 1990’s. In 2006, Lowell’s was purchased by Lowell’s Maritime Foundation, an independent non-profit group with the mission of leading this National Landmark and Working Museum through its third century of wooden boat building.

I'm sure to be hearing more from Graham in the coming months and hope to keep you informed about this project as it progresses. Lowell's makes, among others, this finely kitted out sailing dory.

Original post Thomas Armstrong for Whaleboats for the CW Morgan