Recent goings on around the ship

Naturally, we’ve been prepping for the holidays around the shop.

But mostly, we’re marching on towards our July launch date.

The lower planking team has been steadily pushing onward and upward. Here’s a recent plank at the stern of the ship. You can see the kinds of curve and twist that these planks have to go through at this section of the boat. I’ll label a few things that may not immediately be apparent. We’ll start with the aft end of the boat. This plank is on the port side. Here’s a panoramic photo for orientation. You can move your view all around the aft end of the boat by clicking and dragging with your mouse.

And here’s the plank I’m talking about

1: These are the ends of the existing planks as they come up to the transom. They land on the transom timber. You can see how the transom timber has been shaped to match the changing twist of the planks.

2: We want each plank tight up against its neighbor. We set steel pins into the frame just above the plank. This gives us a solid point to wedge against and helps us to edge set the plank right up to the plank below it.

3: We use ring staffs to do the exact same thing as the spike, only this time, the wedging force is inwards rather than down. The lower arrow points to the ring staff itself, and the upper arrow points to the wedges driven between the staff and the plank. Just above and to the left of the wedges the the rope that holds the top of the ring staff in place.

4: Once the plank is in place and tight against its neighbor, the apprentices come through and drill and drive the trunnels into the plank.

5: When a plank with this much curve and twist is installed, we’ll often lag bolt the ends of the plank for a time to provide extra holding power until all the other fasteners are installed.

This plank had to be notched to fit around the base of the tail feathers.

Speaking of apprentices driving trunnels, here are Shawn (aka King Pine) and Ginger doing exactly that.

Back to the aft end of the boat, the planking from the beaded strake down has been moving along nicely. Here’s the port side.

Some of these planks have a lot of twist in them. If you’re working with white oak, steaming will often allow the wood to make the twist with little trouble. If you’re working with longleaf yellow pine, it may be easier to sculpt the twist into the plank. This is the template that Walt used to record the twist.

This is the plank as it’s being shaped

And finally, here’s Walt installing it.

Kevin has finished up with the decking scarf at the aft end of the boat.

If you’re thinking that it looks like the planks go right through the ceiling planking above them, you’re almost right. Here’s a cross section.

[Ed. note: the seams in the drawing are shown as far more open than they actually are !]


The decking is notched out to allow for caulking to be driven in along the inner seam (just above the D in “Decking”)

Remember those molds for whaleboat fittings earlier? They’ve been cast and are back from the foundry, ready for machining.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we get amazing wood here at the Seaport. Still, even the nicest logs can produce planks with limited usable wood. Luckily, the planks at the upper areas of the boat are not very wide (about 5 3/4″ max) and we can often work around knots, checks, and other defects. Here’s a piece where we’ve just been able to sneak by an ugly section and end up with an almost perfectly clear 26′ long span of wood.

Sometimes the offcut from a particularly wide board won’t be wide enough for a second plank down low, but just barely wide enough for a plank up high.

And if we’re really lucky, we may be able to squeak a few frames for a small boat out of the scrap on the left side of the cut.

And here’s a load of that amazing wood coming in, with Scott running the fork truck. He makes an art out of moving these huge things around.

These are longleaf yellow pine logs from Georgia.

Up forward, the port inner bulwarks are finished up. Jamie is doing the final fairing with power and hand planes.

Evie is caulking the outside upper planking, now that this section is all done and faired.

Shawn (aka SK1) has been working on the cutting in guard.

These large parts go along the outside of the boat and protect the boat from being chafed by the cutter’s scaffolding planks. The crew that cut the blubber off of the whale worked on long scaffolding planks lowered over the sides of the boat. They would stand on these boards with long spear-like knives and cut the blubber from the whale. The blubber was then hauled up over the side of the boat for processing. They did this in all sea conditions, and these guards took the brunt of the boards’ banging against the boat. Much easier to replace worn guards than to replace planking. And in the shipyard, the Joseph Conrad was successfully rolled back out to the lift dock

and lowered back down into the Mystic River.

A small flotilla of work boats carefully pushed and prodded her back to her dock under Quentin’s guidance.

Seems kind of empty around her without her…