Work at the stern

If you come by the shipyard, one of the first things you’ll notice is the giant shed enclosing the Morgan.

Many people don’t even realize that there’s a boat inside there when they first see it. If you’d come by last December, it would have been a little more obvious.

We wrapped everything up to make it more tolerable to work on the outside of the boat in the cold and rain. Unfortunately, that also means that it’s harder to see the work that’s going on in the upper areas of the boat. Today we’ll look at the transom.

Last fall, some of the shipwrights uncovered some serious rot issues in the transom. They were hoping that the rotten inner planking they observed would be just a localized phenomenon. Unfortunately, it was one of those situations where the deeper they looked, the deeper the problem went.

When the excavating was done, they concluded that the transom timber, the tail feathers, and all of the transom planking needed replacement. That’s a really big job. I’ll have more photos of that in a bit, but for now I’ll just give you an overview.

The transom timber is the biggest piece to be replaced in this operation. It runs the width of the boat, and all of the timbers that form the transom frame rest on it and another timber called the Rider (which rides on top of the transom timber).

Here, Walt and Roger are standing in the captains cabin, looking over the area where the transom timber used to be.

You’re looking in through an opening in the port side of the boat. The tail feathers are coming down from the upper right. The large dark timber in the foreground is a knee. This connects the transom timber to the side of the boat. The brown wood sloping up from below to the right is the inner face of the planking. The transom timber is shaped so that the curved, sloping planking lands on it.

The elegant painted paneling of the cabin is a sharp contrast to the rugged timbers that make up the structure of the vessel.

All of those wedges were there to help move the transom timber up so that it could be chainsawed out, piece by piece. Given that it weighs in at around 2,000 pounds, no one considered taking it out whole for more than a minute.

Walt is reaching out towards one of the tail feathers. You can also see the metal plates and turnbuckles used to support them. Once the transom timber and rider were removed, these parts would have sagged down from their own weight unless they were supported.

Photo: Kane Borden

Photo: Kane Borden

It’s a real trick, removing such a major support structure and keeping the boat from shifting and sagging. It’s critical in an operation like this to make sure that everything is held solidly right where it was before the support was removed. To this end, Walt and the aft crew fabricated a whole system of supports to shore up the transom.

Replacing the transom timber require careful measuring and templating of both the existing part and the void left behind. Walt took that data and used it to shape the new timber. Once the initial layout was established, it was time to take off quite a bit of wood. A chain saw helped to take off some of the bigger chunks.

And for doing the shaping, there was no better way to go than with big hand tools. The process starts with a broad axe,

and finishes with an adze and hand planes.

We’re going to have much more on this soon…