Saturday, September 14, 2013

Working Under the Midnight Sun

Emerald Marine's Traveling Contingent 

Alaska, June 2009

Dan Strickland's 1968 built Alaska Troller, Bella Flora was in need of some serious work.  Andy calls long time friends and associates Scotty Kimmit and Meghan King to meet in Homer for a marathon session  replacing frames, re-planking, and patching bulwarks as necessary.  This being an Alaska boat, the waterline is sheathed in hardwood for ice protection.  Much of the rot damage was occurring beneath this sheath.  Months of planning and preparation included a written estimate including labor and materials without having seen the boat in person, as it were, relying on emails, pictures, and other accounts of the boat's condition.  Arrangements, including the  purchase of all the lumber and  supplies such as  fasteners, caulking, red lead and seam compound were made up in antcipation of the job going as planned.  By mid June the tickets were purchased and tools that were boxed up to arrive in a timely fashion on a shipping barge. The crew was met by Dan at the Anchorage airport, they rented a truck, and met up with the barge.

Larch for planking and oak frames, precut

The main issues for Bella Flora was a confluence of improperly installed and ill fastened ice sheeting  non-compatible metals resulting in moisture damage and galvanic corrosion.
After spending the previous evening and setting up, the deconstruction began using chainsaw, chisels and prying tools.  The majority of the work was beneath the waterline in the bow so planks were removed and the extent of the damage was revealed.  A full decision on whether or not work would continue was dependent on the results of this view.  The hope being that the damage wasn't so extensive that  the repair would take too long or be too expensive.  The decision was made and the job was given the go ahead.

Setting up the steam box
Marking the planking for removal
Hot frame going in!
Sister frames were bent in as needed, shoring up the breaks. The original frames were made useful by plugging the  nail holes with wooden nails, stuck in with epoxy.   
New planks, note the shoring at the stem to hold in the plank ends
Job Mascot is seen here and above.  Buzzy Bee participated in most aspects of the work.

Between the original planking Bella Flora looked a bit like a chicken with pin feathers sticking out.  After the wood nails were cut off,  patterning for planking began, the first planks were cut and shaped, fit, fastened and bunged. Plank stock was 1 1/4 thick.

Fairing to port, caulking to starboard

Dan's boys Obie and Duney help out on the project, fastening purple heart ice sheathing.
A great crew!

By June 26, 10 days after commencing, the crew was caulking and the next day, Dan and his boys were helping fill the seams with underwater compound.  In fact Dan and the Strickland boys were handily involved in a lot of the work.  Other work:  Oakum was caulked into a few stern seams, the purple heart sheathing was fit along the waterline and the bow sheeting ( the iron bark was saved and reused) was fastened up as well.

To apply workboat ice-sheathing, a healthy bedding of tar is applied over red lead, then Irish felt is sealed in behind the iron bark planks. Irish felt is a linen product often pre-impregnated with tar.

Averaging 13 hour days for twelve days, they were ready for some refreshment

Looking new!

Working boat Bella Flora loaded with beach debris in Hallo Bay, on the Katmai Coast as part of Alaska's costal clean up effort 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Holding it Together

Two little pictures I've had waiting in the wings for awhile.  I was going to build a long post on the importance of the all the right conditions for creating lasting bonds in boat carpentry but it is a dry topic with lots of slippery facts and even if I blow the dust off all I know just from careful observation over the years I might get stuck creating embarrassing metaphors.

Not even the biggest clamp in the shop
Maybe the smallest "C" clamp in the shop

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sail and Oar weekend at the Pocket Yacht Palooza

Here's a preview of what James McMullen experienced and saw in Port Townsend for the Pocket Yacht Palooza.  Below is a link to his post on the Wooden Boat Forum.  It is best to read his first hand account.

James McMullen Sail and Oar Venture to Pocket Yacht Palooza

Friday, June 14, 2013

Emerald Marine field trip to Mystic Seaport Museum

Mystic, Connecticut April 5 & 6, 2013

Mystic's famous collection of numerous small craft was just one part of the draw for Andy Stewart and James McMullen of Emerald Marine Carpentry. The vessels and holds of historical maritime treasures brought their present day occupation and hobbies to light in a very large, tangible and meaningful way.  Happily, I was privileged to go along to experience what I think may be the best-ever living museum. Likely not out of order, I'll speak for all of us, very high expectations were not let down.
Imagine hardcore boat geeks among stacks of the very boats sailed, designed, belonging to and built by the likes of John Gardner, N.G. Hereshoff, John Alden, Pete Culler and countless others.  This much alone rendered James McMullen gobsmacked.  By the end of the day, a distant gaze of wonderment made us glad that the train would be carrying him safely back to The City.

We left New York City at 7:00 am which would be 4:00 for those of us just fresh from the West Coast.  With bagels and lox from Zabars, and a bit of coffee and we  headed NE on Interstate 95.  It was mostly a straight shot and James was a great navigational partner especially through a tricky interchange or two near the Bronx.  We passed a few places of note through Connecticut. One of the most memorable was the Pez Factory!  After about 3 hours, we hit downtown Mystic, stopped at Bartleby's for coffee,  James took the back-seat for the final jaunt to our destination.  On arrival, I took few seconds too many, getting my stuff gathered to get out of the car.  Andy could almost see the pressure and anticipation building up behind me, one second longer and he might have burst.  James' relief was palpable, and while he didn't run to the entrance, he was like a kid at the gates of Disneyland.

Maritime art and craft met us around every corner.
The legacy of shipbuilding and all its supporting industries clearly illustrate an interconnected web: the ship builders, rope makers, merchants, barrel coopers, carvers and artists, just to name a few.  Whale oil,  prized for it's clean and bright glowing light and essential lubrication, allowed the Industrial Revolution to slide into the next era.  Seeing living history in action brought some of our country's past into a clearer focus.   One of the best displays was a historical model of Mystic in miniature with 4 narration programs, describing the  area and activities of the town in the peak of shipbuilding.

A visual inspection of a display whaling boat from afar.
At Mystic's living museum, the days of United States maritime successes are brought to life and offered as perspective into our greater influences on world wide commerce.  Literally greasing the wheels, whale oil commerce propelled the Industrial Revolution, and while waning, prescient merchants and ship builders saw the end of the era and made rapid transitions into textiles and manufacturing.  As destructive as this particular whaling was to the world's sperm whale population, its impact on who we are today is undeniable.

Perhaps most memorable and appreciated was the welcoming nature of the staff and other people working at the Museum.  We were treated with the upmost hospitality.  I don't think about our visit without wishing I could plan our next trip soon.  Our special tour of the collection with Walter Ansel was the highlight.
 John Gardner's 'General Lafayette' as referred to in our story about building the Island Star
Detail of the bead around the deck

One of many sailing canoes we admired
In the small boat collection, there were numerous designs in all manner of states of repair, showcase, preserved or in a state of stasis.  We enjoyed a variety of canoes, peapods, dories, whitehalls, sailing skiffs, launches, and Adirondack guide boats.  Mind you these stacks were in rows and rows, like the archives of an ancient library. 
The massive hull of the Charles W. Morgan.
Andy and James enjoyed a Shipwrights tour of the Vessel by the Walter, lead shipwright.  Although not built in Mystic, this last remaining wooden whale ship is getting a full restoration.  A mid summer 2013 launch is expected.  In 2014 she will do a port to port tour of New England.  You can be sure that we will be watching for Youtube videos of this exciting splash.
Patterning Planks

An enviable ship saw!
The largest steambox I've ever seen!  
James and Andy both got a bit misty eyed over this beauty shown below.  Andy had just been reading a book of L. Francis Hereshoff essays. One of which describes a rather exciting adventure delivering this vessel home from New York city to Portsmouth.  The hull color is legend and very alluring.

N.G. ( Captain Nat) Hereshoff's favorite boat

How lucky for school kids in the area to have Mystic Seaport on their field trip schedule. One of the most heartening things we heard was of a very generous donor who contributed a large sum of money to help cover the cost of bringing students to the museum. The Square Rigger, Joseph Conrad, hosts sleep-aboard camps where students experience the routine of a sailor.
The Joseph Conrad
On board the L.A. Dunton, Fishing Schooner

Whale Boat Detail
Whale boat and the L.A. Dunton
All of us who enjoy and care for wooden boats have a favorite sensory enjoyment.  I would have to say my own is the smell of pine tar.  Over our two day visit, my nose occasionally picked up a hint of the earthy pungency.  We found one place where pine tar seemed to be actively in use. The rope walk display was being used to parcel and serve the running rigging for the Charles W. Morgan.

The rope walk: A source of pine tar's earthy scent drifting through the air
Beside having another day to poke around and explore the museum, Andy and I were pleased to have  time to explore that area south of Mystic, Noanck, and Bluff Point State Park. We topped it all off with date night dinner at a cozy Italian Restaurant Anthony J's Bistro.
Thank you Mystic!  We'll be back.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Swansong Progress, Part 2

Here are some more pictures of the decks during the winter phase:

Fitting around hatches on the house top

'Midship deck laid up on table

Nibs on the forward hatch
The second phase of work for Swansong continued in Emerald Marine's front yard.  We could nearly see the end result!  Northwest Rigging finished reinstalling the hardware and we put some final teak pieces in place.  The hull, house, and cockpit was washed, waxed and buffed. Rebuilt hatches were installed

While everything got the finishing touches surprise warm sunny weather caught a few carpenters off guard.  Prompting sunhats and sunscreen's prudent use.

Newly varnished instrument pod and new dam for the cockpit dodger.
The riggers simplified the deck plan and removed some winches, doubling up some of the remaining ones.

Looking aft from foredeck

Below decks there were cabinets and headliners to reinstall. After that, it was time for some varnishing to make everything gleam like new. The deck job created a good buzz around and several people have come to take a look. We are proud to have had a hand in this cool project!
New sail tracks and teak fairings

Off she goes.
Best seat in the house

Swansong didn't go far.  She is visible from our back yard now, rig up and almost ready for her summer's fun. She's ready to fly again!