The Birth of a MAYFLOWER II Futtock

A live oak tree being harvested in Belle Chasse, LA to be shipped to Mystic Seaport for inclusion in the MAYFLOWER II restoration project.

A live oak tree being harvested in Belle Chasse, LA to be shipped to Mystic Seaport for inclusion in the MAYFLOWER II restoration project. (Click on the image to begin a slide show.)

For at least a couple of centuries, the live oak tree stood in Belle Chasse, LA, one of a dozen on the Bordelon family’s property. It survived all kinds of weather, and even remained standing after Hurricane Katrina. But in early 2017, the tree had to be taken down to make way for a power line easement. In its second incarnation, the live oak was donated  by the family to Mystic Seaport to be turned into lumber used in the restoration of the Mayflower II.

Mayflower II is owned by Plimoth Plantation and is undergoing a multi-year restoration in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport. The restoration of the 60-year-old wooden ship is being carried out over several years with the project scheduled for completion in 2019. The purpose is to prepare the ship for the 400th anniversary in 2020 of the Pilgrims’ arrival in 1620.

The live oak tree from Belle Chasse is one of dozens secured by the shipyard to go into Mayflower II. “It was great to work with the donor Sam Bordelon and see his happiness at knowing the trees his family cared for would be going to this special purpose,” said Matthew Barnes, the lead shipwright on the project. “Live oak is incredibly rot-resistant, very hard, structurally sound, and the curved shapes it presents makes it highly sought after for shipbuilding.”

In the shipyard, multiple teams of eight shipwrights work simultaneously in different areas of the ship. In the hold, each shipwright works to create a futtock – the timbers that make up the framing structure of the ship – to replace a rotted piece. Hundreds of futtocks are needed. Over the course of about four months this year, the team created approximately 140 futtocks. A total of about 300 are needed. Only about 40 percent of the ship’s original futtocks will not be replaced.

In the accompanying photo gallery, Barnes chronicled the journey of the Belle Chasse live oak from log to futtock over the course of about a month. The futtock was crafted into a floor timber by shipwright Tucker Yaro.

Click on the image above to begin a slide show to view the log’s journey. Use the arrow at the right and left sides of the frame to progress through the gallery. The photo captions explain the process.