Removing the old apron, finding new timber

The shipwrights have settled into a good rhythm on the planking. Thirty-one planks have been installed. They are now focused on the 6th, 7th and 8th strakes. These constitute the widest planks in the hull and it has been somewhat of a challenge to find boards sufficiently wide and long which are not checked or are unusable for some other reason. Fortunately we seem to have enough of the proper material on hand. Above the 8th strake the planks aren’t as wide and we have an ample selection of stock from which to choose.

The apron, part of the very front of the bow structure of the ship, has been removed and a new one is being shaped. To get the old apron off, the shipyard needed a crane to pull it up and slide it out of its vertical position.

A large eyebolt was driven through the top of the apron to permit the crane’s cable to be attached. Unfortunately, it took a couple of tries to get the timber out: it was frozen in place and did not want to give. The shipwrights eventually pounded it loose with sledgehammers so the crane could lift it up out of the scaffold enclosure and drop it on the ground next to the ship. The old apron is being used as a pattern to shape an exact replacement. You can view a photo album of the work on our Facebook page.

The apron cannot easily be cut using a ship’s saw. As a consequence we have turned to the old methods of rough cutting using a chainsaw (instead of the traditional hand held crosscut saw) and then finishing the shape with an adze and hand and electric planes. Once the apron is installed we can commence planking higher up on the bow.

Meanwhile the port and starboard quarter timbers which frame the shape of the stern above the transom timber are being formed as are the tail feathers which are placed vertically between the quarter timbers. Together these pieces constitute the framing of the stern above the waterline. These materials are live oak and were sourced from the timber basin at Charlestown Naval Shipyard in Boston. The transom timber rider beam will be installed shortly. Like the transom timber, this is a heavy item. But unlike the transom timber for which the shipwrights and riggers used a crane, this piece will be manhandled into place using a forklift and block and tackle.

Quentin Snediker, the Director of the Shipyard, returned recently from a trip to Thomasville, Georgia. He was there on search for more longleaf pine. He visited what he described as “stands of true virgin timber in a park-like setting.” Some of these trees are at least 300 years and the land is used for quail hunting preserves. We will be taking trees that have been struck by lightning or those that are dead standing. Three truckloads of longleaf will be arriving in May and June.