Header photo (detail) courtesy Michael Eudenbach

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Whaleboat roundup .2 : A Great Lakes splash and a Beetle branding

Great Lakes Boat Building School

 GlBBS recently launched their build...

and are bringing it to Mystic for the WoodenBoat Festival

Not all the work on a whaleboat is straightforward

Two scenes of earlier work

photos courtesy Great Lakes Boat Building School

Beetle Cat Boat Shop

Beetle's newly completed whaleboat in the shop alongside one of their hallowed catboats

Branding the Beetle name onto the boat

Nice touch

 Nice shot of the Mast Step Tabernacle and the trough

A pair of Azoreans visiting the build

An elegant boat

photos courtesy Beetle Inc, by Bill Sauerbrey

Great Lakes and Beetle have both essentially completed their whaleboats, and will be coming to the WoodenBoat Festival this weekend at Mystic Seaport.  I plan to be there and bring back a report. I say essentially because Beetle hasn't painted it's boat and will appear in the buff as it were, a nice thing, sure to be a crowd pleaser and give a little insight into the construction of these gems.

In the above photos you'll see two Azorean's who visited the Beetle project. I find that interesting for a couple of reasons. First, I haven't been able to confirm whether they are literally from the Azores or from the large Azorean community in New Bedford. Beetle will be donating their boat to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, so I suspect the latter. The Azores have a long tradition of whaling, not from whaleships like the Morgan, but putting out from shore in their boats after sighting a whale, The story is beautifly told in "Twice around the Loggerhead", a sumptuous collaboration between Lance Lee, Bruce Halibisky and Yves Le Corre. Highly recommended. While a few idigenous whaleing communities around the globe have been granted whaling rights by the IWC, the Azoreans have not, and their whaling culture is dying. I wonder why... the Azoreans seem to me to be the same in standing as the Bequia Whalers, at least. Well, a little research turns up the fact that the Bequia whaling right are also being challenged on the grounds of not being Aboriginal. But, I digress.

I hope, like me, you'll be coming to Mystic and get the chance to ogle these beauties. Six of the ten boats built for the project will be there. The shops bringing boats are: Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia; New York City’s Rocking the Boat; Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway of Vineyard Haven, MA; Beetle Boat Shop of Wareham, MA; the New Bedford Whaling Museum; the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Cedarville, MI; and The Apprenticeshop of Rockland, ME.

copyright Thomas Armstrong

Thursday, June 20, 2013

the Apprenticeshop's Ambitious Adventure

Matthew Stackpole, lead historian at Mystic for the CW Morgan restoration.

Matthew presents Tim Jacobus with an award for his work as project leader for the whaleboat build'

Obligatory champagne ritual 

And she's in!

Sail on!

A truly archetypal scene, man going to sea.

Sunday morning preparation for setting off.

Heading toward Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, outside Rockland Harbour. At the helm is Bryan McCarthy (shop director/skipper) with apprentices: Rachel Davis, Garrett Farchione, Simon Jack, Daniel Creisher, Tim Jacobus and Christopher Konecky.


 June 18: Day 3 --The apprentices had another fantastic day on the water. They rowed clear across a very clear and calm Casco Bay, from Small Point to Portland, averaging over 3 knots.

Sailing, from Portland to the Kennebunks


Up the river...

To a warm welcome.

Safe haven and breakfast aboard support vessel 'Advent'

all photos courtesy The Apprenticeshop and
John Snyder/MarineMedia

In keeping with the true spirit of Lance Lee, the Apprenticeshop of Rockland, Me., has not only completed their whaleboat build but are also rowing and sailing their boat to Mystic, hopefully in time for the Woodenboat Show. They're on schedule to make it by the 28th, if not before. A noble undertaking to say the least, hats off to them all. Splashed their boat on Saturday, took off on their adventure Sunday. As of Thursday morning they were in Kennebunkport, shooting for Portsmouth NH.
Matthew Stackpole, lead historian for the Morgan restoration at Mystic, was on hand to send the crew off, after giving a second lecture on the design of the Morgan in Rockland last Thursday. The whaleboat project has generated such an outpouring of scholarship, craft, collaboration and education, as well as learning, adventure and generosity, it is truly amazing. I count myself fortunate indeed to be a small part of it.
Every institution involved could still use some help with funding, so if you have the pockets, please do.

Follow the progress of the expedition daily at the Apprenticeshop blog

I'd like to thank the folks at the Apprenticeshop for their aid to me, and in particular Sandee Havunen, without whose assistance I would have been lost. 

copyright Thomas Armstrong

Monday, June 10, 2013

Splash x 2 @ WOW

The ramp forward the mast is to aid in unsteping the mast using the hinged tabernacle.


Clean lines, form = function

Kytara and Julio, two youngsters who helped with the build, from Urban Promise in Camden NJ.

Bruce McKenzie and his lovely friend Nerissa. Bruce is the lead boatbuilder at the workshop.

Peter Kellog, patron saint of the National Whaleboat Project. Thanks Peter

John Brady, Master of Ceremonies and captain of the ISM spies a whale to port.


The first in is the last built


And in!

Paddling the first around to the dock after her splash




It's a great party both inside...


 and out.

Once in, there was a rowing race, New Jersey v Pa. Some may object, but I'm calling it a dead heat.


photos and text Copyright Thomas Armstrong

This was a great event! I loved it! Two whaleboats splashed at the workshop, racing each other right away. More than nice party, great food and drink for the taking and two of the loveliest boats imaginable. Our views on whaling have changed, in no small part because of the efficiency of boats of this type. Today we celebrate not the killing but the artistry of these impeccably designed boats.

I was fortunate to meet Peter Kellog, whose generosity undoubtedly made the National Whaleboat Project possible, and also Steve White, the captain of Mystic Seaport, whose restoration of the CW Morgan, a massive undertaking, is the impetus for the building of the whaleboats. I am proud to say that the ISM led the way, agreeing to self fund their project and donate the boat(s) to Mystic and the Morgan. Other institutions followed their lead and began their builds. Congrats to all of them.

I would also like to emphasize another aspect of this project. Many of the builds have involved youth volunteers from organizations seeking to give young folk the chance to experience something extremely positive. In Philly, 55 young adults were given this opportunity, kids from Urban Promise in Camden, from The Wooden Boat Factory ( take a look at their one design, drawn by my friend Antonio Dias) and the Charter School for Architecture + Design, both located in Philadelphia.  

 Most of these projects still need additional funding, as they face building the spars and rigging the boats, so if you can, help!

Copyright Thomas Armstrong


Monday, June 3, 2013

Whaleboat Roundup .1

Rocking the Boat

She's a beauty!

Geoff McKonly keeps the project going during a break

Such grace

Ready to launch


Photos courtesy Rocking the Boat

Gannon and Benjamon


The lofting

Plastic bags were used in place of steam box so that the plank could be "whomped" in place.

Closer look at the frames. The top of the frame is fit into a chamfer on the underside of the inwales.

Framing installed

We laid down a coat of oil-based primer throughout the hull before installing any of the ceiling.
(The ceiling is the planks you see here being installed atop the frames-ed)

Whaleboat is primed and ready to paint!

Nat and the whaleboat

Above photos courtesy Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway

With  the July 21st deadline for the launch of the CW Morgan, the various builders of her whaleboats are in full swing to finish. I'll be catching us up on the progress of the boats over the next few weeks. As you can see above, at least one has already splashed, the Rocking the Boat build. My heartiest congratulations to the young volunteers and their instructors for reaching this milestone. Also, the work at Gannon and Benjamin is nearing completion.
The two boats being built at Independence Seaport will go in the water June 8, and I plan to be there for their splash, so stay tuned. (You can also follow the progress with almost daily reports by Charles Bernstein on the WoW blog)
It has been decided that each build will complete their spars and rigging independently, with the exception of RTB, whose rig will be done at Workshop on the Water. I know that Graham McKay of Lowell's Boat Shop was in Philadephia at the Worksop recently building the spars for their boat.
It's my understanding that the completed boats will travel to Mystic to be aboard the CW for her splash and then return to their respective homes for awhile, but ship on the Morgan for her cruise to the New Bedford Whaling Museum in 2014.

As mentioned earlier, I'll be doing a (virtual) tour of the various yards to catch up on their progress. Come along.

Copyright Thomas Armstrong