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May 2009 Charles W. Morgan Restoration Updates
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Charles W. Morgan: Approximately one third of the Morgan is original, including various planking, most of the ceiling, the keel and much of the framing. With this major restoration she will receive her fifth bowsprit and fifth lower foremast. In the first two decades of her stay at Mystic Seaport the museum invested about $275,000 in her restoration or the equivalent of about $2.1 million in today's dollars. The last major project was in 1989.
Work continues on the various methods to stabilize the hull with particular focus on the molds to hold the hull's shape. The molds consist of five wooden "straps" affixed to each side of the hull which are supported by stanchions. When the shipwrights resume dropping the keel, which will eliminate a portion of the hog and adjust the sheer, the stanchions will be adjusted. The longer vertical stanchions, which are also on each side, hold the vessel in place effectively "hanging" the lower hull.
Documentation is a key ongoing process. Not only does it consist of electronic measuring (the hull has dozens of metal reflector metal strips for a laser measuring system) and expansion drawings, it entails a review of the owners' company records, insurance records and shipyard documents to determine what modifications and repairs have been made over her 168 years.
Several ceiling planks were removed and are currently displayed at the north end of the pole barn. There is no residual strength remaining in these planks. The shipwrights discovered that the ceiling is more shaped than expected, which will complicate reconstruction. They were hoping for flatter, less tapered planks, which would be easier to replace, allowing the work to go more quickly. When they start to remove the ceiling planking, they will start at the clamp and work down.
The shrink wrap cover is complete. The sides are being designed to allow them to be open and closed as needed for ventilation. The misting fans in the hold are working well and the hull has been covered with Anchor Seal. These steps will help to slow the drying of the hull.
Charles W. Morgan: After weeks of work to stabilize her hull, installing the bands is almost finished, and the 6x6 fir posts that will hold the bands tight against the hull are piled next to the ship and ready to go.
The Documentation department has been rechecking the ceiling in the stem and stern. Once the ceiling planking is removed, the shipwrights will have more insight into the original construction techniques. The ceiling planks that have been removed can be seen on the floor in the north end of the red pole barn.
A new ladder and landing platform have been built for better access to the lower hold. It will not be open for most visitors, but may be used for escorted tours to get a closer look at the work in progress. It will also be better for the crew that is making the climb up and down to that area throughout the day. There are two gates from the blubber room to the new ladder that will remain closed most of the time.
Fresh water misting fans have been set up in the lower hold, 1 aft and 1 amidships on timers to run from 4 to 8 p.m... Their effectiveness will be monitored to determine whether a third will need to be installed in the stem.
Charles W. Morgan: Today the shipwrights replaced the crush blocks at the keel for the third time. (Crush blocks are sacrificial soft wood pieces set on top of hard wood keel blocks which support most of the ship's weight. As the hull settles, the crush blocks are pinched. They are removed with a chain saw and replaced.) A little over one inch of the hog has been eliminated by the force of gravity and the hull has started to shift in other places as demonstrated by laser measurement and visual evidence of narrowing gaps among the knees and deck planking in the interior of the vessel. The shipyard's documentation crew has developed a progress chart of the hull's movement. As depicted, one can see both a drop in the hog and gradual movement of the hull's overall shape.
The challenge now is for the shipwrights to control the movement of the hull. To this end they are fitting the full with a series of moulds. These consist of oak planking bent and fastened to the hull in strategic locations positioned over heavy steel "I-beams." Shores will be placed between the I-beams and the planking. These new moulds run port to starboard or crosswise to the planking. Morgan now has multiple support features: the newly installed moulds, metal stanchions, keel blocks and vertical wooden stanchions. When the hull settles to its desired shape (ie; proper sheer, reduced hogging and elimination of "racking" especially in the starboard bow), the shipwrights will halt the movement. They can then remove rotten planking and the ceiling and replace these with new materials thereby restoring the hull's longitudinal strength and maintaining its shape.
A special note on the ceiling: three ceiling planks have been removed and are presently at the north end of the open red shed. These items have never been replaced and are yellow pine over 168 years old.
The first section of the shrink rack cover has been installed. Target date for completion of the full cover is mid-May.
The Morgan is the United States' second oldest national historic nautical vessel landmark. The oldest is the USS Constitution which was built in 1797. Over 119 vessels have been designated national landmarks, mostly former naval ships.
OTHER: Amistad has been hauled. Her hull was in terrific shape (somewhat surprising given that she hasn't been hauled for two years and the fact she has been in many different climates during that period). Most of the work will be done by her crew, although caulking, if necessary, will be handled by our shipwrights.
Brilliant's masts were stepped Friday. The riggers next project is re-rigging the Dunton. Work on the Liberty continues. She is on track to return to service over Memorial Day. Necessity developed some prop vibration. She will be hauled for adjustments.
Reminder: The Shipyard Gallery will close Monday, May 4 for installation of a new exhibit.
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