Approaching the Launch

Shipwright Matt Barnes installs the billet head on the Charles W. Morgan.

Shipwright Matt Barnes installs the billet head on the Charles W. Morgan.

With only a few days to go before launch the shipwrights and naval engineer have developed a ballasting plan which will ensure the safe launch of the vessel. When viewed in her cradle out of the water, the Morgan seems to have a nearly horizontal keel. In the water, however, the Morgan floats with what mariners call a drag. That is to say, she draws more aft than forward.

When launching her, the drag presents a problem which must be properly compensated for. Because she is being launched in a horizontal position instead of sliding down the ways stern first, the bow will start to lift off the keel blocks before the stern. This will put undue strain on the after keel blocks and poppets, which hold her in place when out of the water. In an extreme case this action could cause the vessel to tip over. The solution is to place ballast in the fore part of the ship thus permitting her to float on an even keel. Once safely afloat the shipwrights will add ballast aft and gradually the hull will ride in the water as she was designed. The ballast consists of 40 pound concrete blocks and lead ingots purchased from the US Navy. Fifteen tons of ballast will be placed in this initial ballasting.

Work has commenced to shape the new bowsprit in the main shed. This is a large piece of Douglas-fir being some 32-feet long and nearly 24 inches square when looked at from the ends. The new lower forward, a topmast and lower mizzen are also in the main shed and will be worked on soon. Morgan‘s freshly gold leafed billet head has been installed. Being a Quaker ship, the billet head design is a more subdued version of a figurehead. This one was sculpted in 1991. The original billet head now resides in¬†Mystic Seaport’s collections.

In addition to the spars, work on the rigging is progressing. A group of riggers and volunteers is working in the rope walk and new blocks are being fabricated.

The Morgan will be closed to visitors commencing Wednesday, July 17 and will reopen no later than Thursday, July 25.