First new exterior plank

The restoration of the Morgan reached another significant milestone February 21 as Museum shipwrights installed the first of the new exterior planking on the whaleship. The longleaf pine plank weighed more than 500 pounds, measured 34 feet long, 8 inches wide and 4 inches thick. President Steve White drove the initial metal fastener, which was witnessed by several Museum employees and the print and broadcast media. Watch the installation of the first plank.

This is the fourth phase of the project. To date, the vessel has been thoroughly documented, the structure of her lower hull has been restored, and interior planking has been replaced.

The current phase involves planking the external hull below the waterline. Much of the material dates to her original construction. Installing a plank requires carefully shaping and “dry-fitting” it to its eventual location on the hull. The planks are then steamed for at least three hours to make them flexible. At that point they are quickly hauled into position, braced, and wedged into place. The plank is subsequently fastened with bronze spikes and large wooden pegs called treenails (pronounced “trunnels”). Time is of the essence as the steam-induced flexibility wears off quickly and planks can crack or split.

Culling and sorting of the planking stock continues. This is an important process because as the sawed planks age, imperfections appear such as rot, which might not have been evident when the planks were cut. Quentin Snediker, Director of the Shipyard, observed that the shipwrights who built the Morgan weren’t as discriminating as we are when selecting a piece of stock. However, as Quentin also noted, the builders of the Morgan had access to virgin timber.

Work on the dismantling the transom continues. This is a tricky process because it entails removing joinery in the Captain’s cabin. Much of the joinery is original fabric. Some of the knees have been fashioned and are ready for installation. Meanwhile planning for the whaleship’s 38th Voyage continues. The Morgan will be an “uninspected vessel,” but clearly Mystic Seaport will need to adhere to safety requirements such as appropriate running lights and communications equipment.