Header photo (detail) courtesy Michael Eudenbach

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Alexandria Seaport weighs in

"Lofting -- Boat designs are often shared (recorded, sold) as a Table of Offsets, a matrix of numbers on regular paper.  In lofting, the offsets (numbers) are used to draw full size lines on thin plywood showing the exact shapes of key features of the boat to be built.

 Molds -- They define and support the shape of the boat while it is built. Note that we are one of two (Gannon & Benjamin being the other) building upside down. We generally prefer this method and are accustomed to it.  The other way to build this boat is right-side-up using hanging molds.

 Spiling -- A temporary template is clamped in the location of the next plank and it is marked to show the exact shape needed for the next plank.  The marks on the template are transferred to the material for the next plank to accurately define the shape of that plank. 

Getting out a plank -- Nails are hammered into Maine cedar(bark still on it) for the next plank at the points transferred from the template.  A flexible wood batten is then held against the nails to draw a smooth line along the marked points.  This line shows where to cut the correct shape for the next plank. 

 Progress -- Preparing to install the 5th of 8 planks.

 Almost finished planking -- Only one more to go.

Steaming the Inwale -- The inwale is steamed and bent on the outside of the boat while the molds are still in place, in essence using the boat as a bending jig. After the frames are installed and the molds are removed, the shaped inwale will be installed inside the boat.

Steam Bending the Frames -- Steamed white oak is flexible while still hot, and clamping it to a purpose-built jig allows it to cool and take the shape of the frames.

 Installing frames – note that many of the molds have been removed to make room for the frames and the workers installing them – Rob is under the boat setting screws into the frame held in place by Larry and Anthony.

All photos and captions courtesy Alexandria Seaport Foundation

Jack Crawford at the Alexandria Seaport was kind enough to send me an update on the progress of their whaleboat build. One of the last groups to join the project, they are making fine progress. See for yourself. Here's what Jack has to say about their effort and organization, thanks, Jack:

"The Alexandria Seaport Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia, is building a whaleboat for the CHARLES W MORGAN in their boat building shop on the Potomac River in Old Town.  Through the building and use of traditional wooden boats ASF helps young people turn their lives around and provides families, community groups and schools with meaningful educational, social and recreational experiences. The opportunity to build this whaleboat to the original design is a natural fit for ASF.  The project is a joint effort between the ASF volunteers and apprentices.  Boat building is an integral component of the training for the ASF apprentice program, and the volunteers provide expertise, knowledge and mentoring for the apprentices.  
ASF looks forward to joining the other boats and the organizations building them to celebrate the building of this little fleet and, of course, the CHARLES W MORGAN. "

posted by Thomas Armstrong via Whaleboats for the CW Morgan, all rights reserved.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

HUZZAH! CW Morgan is launched

The Whaleboats dance and parade

Six whaleboats from the project were present for the launch. Front row l to r: The Apprenticeshop, Great Lakes Boat Building School and Gannon & Benjamin. Back row l to r: Rocking the Boat, Independence Seaport Museum and Independence Seaport Museum. There was also a seventh boat, from the Mystic Collection, built by Willits and Walt Ansel in 2002.

photo courtesy Wen Byar

Speaking of the Independence Seaport, here are volunteers John Schwarzenbach and Wen Byar, along with CEO John Brady.

Here's the crew of the Great Lakes boat ready to shove off.

Geoff McKonly, formerly of Rocking the Boat, was lead builder for their whaleboat. Here he's sending his crew off for the whaleboat parade.

In the foreground, the Apprenticeshop boat joins the two whaleboats from the ISM.

Rocking the Boat and Great Lakes dancing.

RTB and ISM have a dance.

Here's the boat from Mystic built by Willits and Walt Ansel in 2002.


The Mystic boat led the other five in a 'parade' to the 'Morgan' and back.

Brady et al en route.

The hardy crew of the Apprenticeshop boat. She was sailed and rowed from Rockland ME to Mystic.

The Ceremony

Just prior to the ceremonies I had a sail in the catboat 'Breck Marshall'. Here we see the 'Morgan' and 'Sabino' from the water.

Stage set for the beginning of the proceedings. How massive she is.

Seated just behind the 'Morgan' are the VIP's, and yes, it was hot!

Ric Burns gave the the keynote address, and as I'd expected, it was eloquent and spot on.
to his left is Steve White, President of Mystic Seaport. To the extreme right is Sarah Bullard, a descendant of CW Morgan.

Senator Richard Blumenthal read the U.S, Senate Resolution he co-crafted commemorating the launch.

Sarah Bullard 'christens' the launch with a bottle filled with waters collected from the seas the 'Morgan' sailed.

As the 'Morgan' is slowly lowered into the water, a fireship behind the 'Sabino' let go her spouts.

A great crowd on the water

And finally, she is in.

Huzzah! and Boom

The red white and blue

The 'Morgan' floats,

though not quite to her lines. She still has to be rigged and the added weight of spars and masts will bring here down to where she should be.

On Monday morning the 'Morgan' was towed a little further out into the Mystic River.

photo courtesy John Brady

All photos Thomas Armstrong unless otherwise noted

The morning was inauspicious. Raining. But by the time we had breakfasted, things were looking up, no rain and clearing skies, as they say, the 'Morgan' is a lucky boat. I was lucky as well, running into Dan McFadden communications director at Mystic as I entered the Seaport. He directed me to the dock alongside the 'LA Dunton' where the whaleboats were asssembling for a parade to the 'Morgan' and back. I rushed over to find all six of the project boats and a Mystic whaleboat rowing around the river prior to assembling for the parade. Evelyn Ansel was calling the shots and announced the beginning of the parade. I moved over to Australia beach to catch them going by. Later, my companions and I took a short cruise on the catboat 'Breck Marshall' to get a closer look at CW and the watercraft invading the Mystic River for the celebration. Magic.
By the time the ceremonies began it was sunny and a bit hot. The affable Steve White, President of Mystic Seaport, opened the proceedings. Speeches ensued, by dignitaries, all quite good, actually, then a prayer, and then we came to the Keynote address by the superb filmmaker Ric Burns. Ric is a bit of an historian on American whaling and his documentary 'Into the Deep' for PBS is must see for anyone remotely interested in American whaling, or our history in general. His remarks were cogent and perceptive and a coda to the day.
Sarah Bullard christened the 'Morgan'. She is a descendent of Charles W Morgan. The bottle she used to strike the bow was filled water from the North and South Atlantic, the Pacific and Indian Oceans as well as water from New Bedford and Mystic, her original and current homeports with a wee drop of rum added for good luck.
The 38th Voyage:
Beginning in late May of 2014, the 'Morgan' will embark on another voyage. It will be her 38th. She'll first sail south to New London for sail training and seagoing preparations. Upon leaving New London she'll turn upcoast and visit Newport, Vineyard Haven, New Bedford, Provincetown and Boston. The 'Morgan' will then return to Mystic. 
According to Dan McFadden at Mystic Seaport, her voyage and subsequent tenure as a exhibit at Mystic revolves around four major themes: The American Sailor as Icon, The influence of different cultures connecting at sea, Whaling as an example of American enterprise and America's changing relationship to the natural world. Dan states "The last is the most significant: whales were hunted almost to extinction. Today America celebrates the whale and works for it's recovery. Where once the 'Charles W Morgan's cargo was oil and bone, today her cargo is knowledge."

 It's my fervent hope that that's true. This massive work of preservation and restoration, involving more than five years and millions of dollars, and including the work done at the various institutions building the whaleboats, is a monument to history, and quite valuable as an artifact. But to fulfill her potential, the 'Morgan' must also become a potent symbol for another kind of preservation, that of not only whales and other cetaceans but for all worldwide fishing stocks and sea life, as well as our seas themselves, all of which are in danger.

Some stats:   

The 'Morgan' is 113' long and 27' wide

She displaces 300 tons

She is rigged as a bark

280 frame futtocks were replaced

She has 70 new ceiling planks

168 new hull planks

22 States have contributed materials or expertise to the restoration.

As one speaker during the Launch ceremony quipped, It's all been said but not everyone has had a chance to say it...

I would like to thank all those involved in this tremendous project, the staff at Mystic, the shipwrights and volunteers who've brought this ship back to life, all the folks involved in the whaleboat project. Especially, Steve White for his tenacious commitment to see the project through in financially difficult times,  three generations of the Ansel family for their commitment to preserving maritime knowledge and skills, Dan McFadden for his help and generosity and to John Brady for inviting me to be a part of the project. It has been and continues to be a great honor.

posted by Thomas Armstrong on Whaleboats for the CW Morgan

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

photo by Bill Rutherford. We were headed for ice cream after the launch.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Whaleboat convergence @ Mystic

 Gannon and Benjamin

The Gannon and Benjamin whaleboat surfaced alongside the small boat docks.


Michelle is my liaison at Beetle and she has been great, responsive and on top of her game.

Great Lakes Boat Building School

Beautifully finished interior, with bright ceiling planks, buff/cream planks and frames to compliment the blue grey.

The Apprenticeshop

Center and right are apprentices Simon Jack and Dan Creishar, crew on the boat on it's sail to Mystic

Skipper on the Apprenticeshop's sail and oar cruise from Rockland ME to Mystic, Brian McCarthy

Rocking the Boat

My brother John views the RTB boat.

 Independence Seaport's boat occupying ground recently vacated by the CW Morgan.

all photos and captions copyright Thomas Armstrong

It was another exhilarating year at the WoodenBoat show. Six of the ten whaleboat project boats were on view, those built by The Apprenticeshop, which boat, so in the spirit of Lance Lee, was brought to Mystic by apprentices, rowing sailing and occasionally being towed, Beetle Boat Shop, Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway, Great Lakes Boat Building School, Independence Seaport Museum's Workshop on the Water and Rocking the Boat. Seeing so many of the whaleboats up close, that I'd only seen virtually before was a huge treat. I really can't fault any of the boats, they all exhibit a high degree of craftsmanship. Five of the six were in pristine condition, the exception being the Apprenticeshop's boat, which bore the signs of it's rite of passage, being rowed and sailed to the event. Patina, let's call it. It was nice to see some wear on the boat, and illuminating, as to how quickly it accrued. The originals were built with the expectation of lasting for a whaleship cruise, average three years, and then replaced. See more on 70.8%,including a skills demo by Walt and Evelyn Ansel on caulking.