Chock-a-block

If you had to guess which of the many parts of the Dove would be the first to be milled up, you might think- the keel? stem? stern post? Think smaller. Back in March we felled some Ash from Elf captain Rick Carrion’s farm up in Cecil county. After unloading onto our mill we cut slabs at dimension specified according to the various widths of the aforementioned parts. The pieces would then be cut to their length to dry in our solar kiln for 2 months, eventually making their way to dry storage in cardboard boxes until this week. These are the Dove’s 200 or so blocks, dead eyes, and bulls eyes. For those of you unsure as to what a block is, it is the wooden shell which creates the “pulley” in the ships rigging.

We’ve been focusing this week primarily on the single sheave blocks in 1/2”, 5/8”, and 3/4” as these are the most common with 35 or so of each. In order to make such a high quantity in a timely manner its important to work out a production assembly style process. We begin with wood cut to dimension, we then cut the pin hole with our drill press, the mortise for the sheave with our slot mortiser, the blocks profile with the band saw, the chamfer with our router table, and finally the score for the strop with gauges and rasps. The product will then rest in a vat of pine tar and linseed oil for some months.

A block ready to receive its mortise

A block ready to receive its mortise

1/2 “ blocks with patterns in the foreground. The 1/2” designation refers to the size of rope which the block will accommodate.

1/2 “ blocks with patterns in the foreground. The 1/2” designation refers to the size of rope which the block will accommodate.

Certain aesthetic details are inspired by the archaeological study of blocks from the Vasa, a Swedish ship launched in 1627, lost closely there after, and excavated in 1961. Block typology varied significantly during the 17th century region to region, sometimes with vary rounded nearly circular shapes, other times the blocks were hardly anything more than just that- blocks. We also see specific types such as fiddle blocks found more frequently in places like the Netherlands and less frequently in England. Fiddle blocks create a double block with sheaves in tandem rather than side by side, because they are used less frequently and because two single blocks can be siezed together to create a fiddle, I suspect the English found them less versatile. The Vasa blocks inspired our shape, a more rounded style, as well as our chamfer degree and the hardness of the chamfer’s edge. The sheaves of the Vasa blocks would leave the line proud of the block, that is, vulnerable to chafe. For this reason we have made our sheaves smaller. A smaller diameter sheave can be harder on the line, but considering our modern line material (polyester or polypropylene) we are within a safe sheave to rope diameter ratio.

A double block from the  Vasa

A double block from the Vasa

After completing the single blocks we will move on to dead eyes, bulls eyes, double blocks, and any other specialty blocks. More posts will appear as we progress in our process.

Till next time

SH

A Boat Shaped Shadow

This week marks a new stage in construction and a significant psychological turn for the crew. Until now, when approached by a museum guest to discuss the construction of the Maryland Dove, we would point to the stem assembly joinery, or to the keel laid out in the yard, or to our stack of futtocks and explain to them how things will come together and take on shape. This week, if a guest were to walk out back to view the construction process, the vessel would be self-evident to them.

One full frame standing on top of the keel makes a world of difference for ones imagination. What makes a thing a thing? There are so many ways to answer this question of constitution. To some philosophers it may depend on whether the thing is capable of fulfilling its intended purpose or end- Aristotle’s δύναμις. In this case we’d ask the question, “can the ship sail?” To others its whether the thing maintains a certain form regardless of its ability to fulfill its functional end or maintain its proper force, what in philosophy is called the “formal cause”. Does the object resemble a prototypical vessel or come close to this formal truth? Truth is to be found within a matrix of these conceptions and one such conception that I have found to be prevalent in the boat yard is an object constitution that seems to be deeply imaginative and generous. In viewing the keel with a single frame in place, we see a boat. This is the phenomenology of imagination. Phenomenology, for those of you unfamiliar with modern philosophy, is the study of phenomena or of experience. Seeing is deeply phenomenological, we generously make the leap toward the vessel’s end in its incompletion and do so imaginatively. We see all of the vessel’s frames, we see the deck, we see masts, we see the ship sailing and perhaps even our hand on the tiller. But for now, we have a keel with a frame sitting on top.

As a sailor I have often pondered the inclination of mankind’s wandering. Our dissatisfaction and incompletion. Why would we voluntarily leave comfort and habit for discomfort and mystery? Martin Heidegger said that we are the “being of becoming”, meaning that we are that which is never finished, we are excessive- thus our technological being and our capacity to extend cultural memory forward toward successive generations via language and artifacts. We do not start fresh at birth and human culture prevails, for it is not confined by genetic memory or generational memory alone. What we are and have right now, is not good enough for us and does not constitute historical man. We are the “being of becoming”. Heidegger proposes that we are that being which poses its own being as a question. He says very clearly, that this questioning is necessary for human being and that it is perennial to historical man. We are not the being which lives life out as a constant end or as an answer. We conclude paradoxically by saying that our essence (οὐσία) is in interpreting what is given and exceeding it.

This existential analytic can be extended to our phenomenology of “seeing”. We see the ship long prior to its completion or to speak in Aristotelian terms, we see the ship before its formal cause. What does this mean? It suggests that we are incessantly involved in a projection of time. We are imaginative and horizon obsessed: Heidegger’s famous Dasein or “being-there”. If we can only see what is here, right now, he would claim that we are not human and that we would be living a vulgar animal like existence. This future oriented being can explain our predisposition to anxiety. If we could only see what is here, right now, we would not see the island on the horizon. We would step into the sea and turn around. We probably would have no sea going ships. The ship is the easiest object to make an example of, as Its very end is excessive in nature. Its an end in overcoming and in conquering our boundedness- our captivity. The ship is a testament to our unsettled nature- our wandering, and to our need for continuous technological mediation.

What I love about phenomenology, is that it so quickly makes apparent just how difficult it is to express the very basic style of man and of our approach to the world or indeed- our making of it. Its a demonstration of the difficulty to express that which is so close to us. It is easier to describe something other, something mechanical, something explicit; but most of our knowledge is taken for granted, for it is embodied and implicit and intimate.

Another of Aristotle’s causes, the “efficeint cause”, is probably the description of constitution which is closest to our materialist culture as well as to the craftsperson. The efficient cause of a ship is in shipbuilding, is in the ship being built. Lets take a look at the art of building or manipulating material through phenomenolgy. The shipwright builds using tools, tools are reservoirs of memory, a tool itself is something designed to carry out a desired end and must be interpreted accurately if its use is to be efficient. In this way, tools are like language, they can be used creatively but they also have embedded within them structure and rules. French contemporary philosopher Bernard Stiegler has studied technology through this lens. He retells the story of Prometheus (Greek meaning- foresight) and Epimetheus (hindsight): the twin Titans were given the responsibility of assigning positive traits to every animal, Epimetheus forgot to give man a quality so his brother Prometheus stole the power of the arts and of fire from the gods Athena and Hephaestus (god of craft) to give to man. This provides Stiegler with a genesis account of technology but also of anthropology. We have no essence of our own, save that of which is outside of ourselves. We project forward and embed our creations, our technologies, with cultural memory to overcome a fundamental amnesia and we do so through technological process or memory which exceeds not only our personal memory but also our generational memory. This is to say, that in building a ship using tools, we find useful tools as artifacts of the past and manipulate them in order to realize a design. We use our technological history and heritage looking ahead of ourselves toward the future. Again, technology is a testament to our reckoning with time. We can look at Socrates’ argument from Plato’s Meno that to learn and to know is to remember that which we have forgotten. I find this argument complementary to Stiegler’s theory of technology. Technological existence is a means to recovering knowledge.

We have completed our first frame and its standing on top of the keel, but what we see, is the Maryland Dove. We project our project forward constantly, the nature of our present tense is future oriented but derives its sense making abilities from embedded knowledge within artifacts of the past. Our seeing of the ship, the ship itself, and our building of the ship, is excessive and mysterious. Of course none of the shipwrights would explain their process as ridiculously as I just have. But all of them have at one time been guided by a dream. To be guided by a dream is the most generous seeing of all- the most imaginative, for it seems to be an act of making something out of nothing but the vague imprint of a boat shaped shadow.

SH

Our Ships Rig

Recently we hosted a symposium on the building of the new Maryland Dove, the archaeological and historical research which informs our architectural choice, as well as US Coast Guard standards to be observed in constructing a certified vessel. As you may know, very little exists by way of primary source material and no original fabric from the historic Dove which was lost in 1635 during a return voyage to England. I thought I’d present my research on the vessel’s rigging construction detail and sail plan, much of which finds some voice in painting of the time period, specifically that of the “Dutch Golden Age”. I apologize in advance for this technical post!

Much of our design is informed by historical research and previous architectural work on the Dove by architect William Baker. William Baker drew a small pinnace with a three masted ocean going rig to approximate a likely historical type which was to be constructed by Jim Richardson in 1978.

The Baker/ Richardson Dove with a common but cumbersome three masted ocean going rig complete with: (aft to fwd/ bottom to top) mizzen lateen, main course, main topsail, fore course, fore topsail, and a furled spritsail

The Baker/ Richardson Dove with a common but cumbersome three masted ocean going rig complete with: (aft to fwd/ bottom to top) mizzen lateen, main course, main topsail, fore course, fore topsail, and a furled spritsail

Later in William Baker’s life he found reflection on his research concerning the Dove and wrote in his 1983 ‘The Mayflower and other Colonial Vessels’ that, “I see a strong possibility that the artist who molded Lady Anne’s ceiling was trying to portray the Dove as a ‘square bojort’ or whatever the English may have called it. From details of the Ark it is obvious that the artist was not familiar with ships in general.”

The aforementioned Hook House tile from Lady Anne’s ceiling crudely depicting the Dove, and providing at least some inspiration for the idea that the Dove may have been rigged as a square bojort during her ocean crossing in 1633. This is William Bakers line tracing of the tile.

The aforementioned Hook House tile from Lady Anne’s ceiling crudely depicting the Dove, and providing at least some inspiration for the idea that the Dove may have been rigged as a square bojort during her ocean crossing in 1633. This is William Bakers line tracing of the tile.

Lucas Waghenaer’s illustration of a square bojort (1584). (Baker, William A. The Mayflower and other Colonial Vessels)

Lucas Waghenaer’s illustration of a square bojort (1584). (Baker, William A. The Mayflower and other Colonial Vessels)

Historical record tells us that the ‘Dove’ was to have been a purchased 40 ton (burthen) commercial vessel. Most likely built within the first quarter of the 17th century. She is assumed to have an English rig in construction detail, but as with all English rigs of the 17th century, she is strongly influenced by the Dutch in rig type. As noted above, William Baker had suggested the Dutch “boyer” or “bojert” type for such a rig as it would have been a prevalent rig type with cross regional equivalents found in Germany, England, and Scandinavia. Maritime historian Ab Hoving notes of the Dutch boyer’s trade with the French, German, and English and testifies to the types influence (Hoving, 17th Century Dutch Merchant Ships. 2014). The boyer rig type was superseded by the galliot and equivalent rig forms in the Netherlands in the late 17th century. Hoving suggests boyers of up to 72’ in length, with lee boards or without, and with either standing gaffs (half sprits), bezan rigs or sprit mainsails. The boyer type carries a small lateen mizzen often depicted stepped far aft sheeting to a boomkin. The rig also carries a square topsail, an inboard fore staysail, and is most often depicted with a square spritsail.

Reinier Nooms. 1650. Een Boeÿer, Een Galioot. The author suggests that the standing gaff rig to have not yet been in common use during the 1630s, otherwise, Nooms’ print provides an accurate depiction of a common Dutch Boyer of the early 17th century.

Reinier Nooms. 1650. Een Boeÿer, Een Galioot. The author suggests that the standing gaff rig to have not yet been in common use during the 1630s, otherwise, Nooms’ print provides an accurate depiction of a common Dutch Boyer of the early 17th century.

A key for sail types: R to L, top to bottom: square, lateen, gaff, sprit, gunter, and standing lug

A key for sail types: R to L, top to bottom: square, lateen, gaff, sprit, gunter, and standing lug

Our vessel most likely underwent a substantial rig overhaul after being purchased to achieve an increased sea worthiness. Rigging which would have been common in coasting vessels, such as unstayed and lashed topmasts, sheeting braces, spritsails and topsails set flying, and generally lesser stayed more scantly built spars (as in the Reinier Nooms’ painting of 1650, Een Boeÿer, Een Galioot) would have been done away with and the standards of more seaworthy rigging practices common in ocean going vessels would be observed. We should speculate that the Atlantic crossing may have been performed without the use of the sprit main, and perhaps as what William Baker calls a “square bojert” (Baker, The Mayflower and other Colonial Vessels. 1983). Baker suggests that the large main sprit was “replaced by a deep narrow square sail which was more suitable for deep-sea voyages” and is depicted in Lucas Waghenaer’s illustrations (see above image). The instability of both the gaff and the sprit have been noted by author of ‘Ship Building and Maintenance’ (1671) Nicolaes Witsen, he comments that at the time of his writing the Boyer was in “rear guard action” to that of the Galliot and Boot. This would suggest a main course and topsail with rigging to better support the spars and transfer load away from the masts to the hull; i.e., more standing rigging, lifts, gear, etc. After the vessel’s arrival to the Chesapeake bay, it seems likely that she would have been reconfigured once again to accommodate her larger sprit main which would allow her to explore the inner reaches of the Chesapeake. What seems entirely probable would be a new reduction of the rig. Unbending the square main, and a simplifying of the topsail (deck set, without lifts, foot ropes, braces, and stowing gear) as in the Baker designed ‘Adventure’, a 17th century replica built in 1969. This style of topsail is also seen depicted in numerous paintings. Vessels of this era and especially of this size, lowered their main yard to deck to be furled. Main yards carried on fore and aft vessels were also frequently lowered while sailing to weather in order to achieve stability by decreasing weight aloft lowering the center of gravity. Learning to sail in this manner may prove to be a learning curve. As with the majority of 17th century replica vessels, stability issues are a problem, thus the history of hull development and the evolution of more and more stable hulls. We should not scoff at the words of Witsen as we compare his disdain for ocean going gaffs and sprits with that of the relatively stable and very lofty rigs of the later clipper ships for example, as the latter vessels had far more stable hull forms. This amounts to an argument for the ability to lower all yards to deck and to practice such lowering frequently. It may not be uncommon for the new Dove to sail with a cocked main yard, a partially or fully lowered main yard and no top yard to be seen. We may also wish to lower the mizzen yard to deck on occasion. This being said, we may opt for a topsail with gear, i.e., buntlines and clewlines, to allow for more handy sailing when not experimenting. Two modes of operation could be conceived of, that of efficient and familiar sailing with passengers and students, and experimental sailing to better understand the likely operation of an early 17th century coasting rig.

Research of early 17th century vessels depicted in charts, models and paintings, have lead us to the conclusion that the gaff rig was not in popular use until the 1650s. Some believe that Charles the 2nd popularized this Dutch import in the second half of the 17th century through the frequent parading of his 1660 Dutch yacht, ‘Mary’. A simple cross generational analysis of the van de Veldes (elder: 1611-1693, younger: 1633-1707) provides an incomplete, yet telling story of the rig’s development. In the early works of the elder showing fore and afters we see a sea of sprit rigs. In viewing the later works of the younger we see a smattering of both standing gaffs and sprits. We may also turn to the art of Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (1566-1640) or Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen (1575-1633) who were working more closely to the time of the Dove’s crossing (1633-34). If the gaff rig was known to English ocean going captains of 1634, it would have been such a novelty that the generally conservative prudence associated with seafaring would not have readily welcomed such a rig, especially given the context of an uncertain ocean passage. What we are attempting will be a challenge, a vessel which will be able to sail with a standing gaff if desired, but that will primarily carry the more lifely historically accurate sprit. The sprit rig depicted here includes all of the common elements of the larger dutch sprit rig, which rather than brailed were commonly scandalized or left gekaaid-kaaied (John Leather, Spritsails and Lugsails. 1989 pg 59; see also Chatterton, Fore and Aft Craft. 1922 pg 62). With an eye towards safety we will make use of brails rather than scandalizing and striking sail on all occasions. The use of brails has been seen in some sprit rigs of this time period but were certainly not always in use with the spirt rig. Consultation with our archaeologist Fred Hocker has lead us to believe that reef nettles may have been in use as early as 1600 and that the bonnet system of adding or shortening sail was fading out by the early 16th century contrary to what we find on other replica and recreation vessels. This conclusion comes from his study of various suits of sails found nearly perfectly in tact from vessels in the Baltic and North Sea. More information will be published on these findings in the coming years.

Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen (1580- 1635) Ships in a Squall on the Haarlemmer Meer.  Small spirt rigged vessels showing the common method of scandalizing or sailing “gekaaid-kaaied”. Today this is seen when a gaff rig eases the peak halliard to spill wind and is sometime done when slowsailing on the dock. Note a possible gaff rig upper left.

Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen (1580- 1635) Ships in a Squall on the Haarlemmer Meer.

Small spirt rigged vessels showing the common method of scandalizing or sailing “gekaaid-kaaied”. Today this is seen when a gaff rig eases the peak halliard to spill wind and is sometime done when slowsailing on the dock. Note a possible gaff rig upper left.

Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom. 1566-1640. Battle between Dutch and Spanish ships on the sea of Haarlem in 1573. Note the square sterned boyer top center as well as the dominance of the sprit rig type in this collection of fore and aft coasting vessels. Bottom left we have a Spanish “galley” a common Mediterranean type carrying a large lateen and dozens of rowing stations. The lateen sail replaced the square sail in the med by the 6th century and would come to be the primary aft most sail on northern European vessels all the way to the 18th century. The lateen is thought to have been the first fore and aft sail. Lateen comes from the french “latine” which simply means “latin”. Vroom may be one of the most helpful painters to study as he fits squarely within the time period of the original Dove. Compare this image with Willem van de Velde the Younger below.

Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom. 1566-1640. Battle between Dutch and Spanish ships on the sea of Haarlem in 1573. Note the square sterned boyer top center as well as the dominance of the sprit rig type in this collection of fore and aft coasting vessels. Bottom left we have a Spanish “galley” a common Mediterranean type carrying a large lateen and dozens of rowing stations. The lateen sail replaced the square sail in the med by the 6th century and would come to be the primary aft most sail on northern European vessels all the way to the 18th century. The lateen is thought to have been the first fore and aft sail. Lateen comes from the french “latine” which simply means “latin”. Vroom may be one of the most helpful painters to study as he fits squarely within the time period of the original Dove. Compare this image with Willem van de Velde the Younger below.

Willem van de Velde the Younger. 1633- 1707. A States Yacht and other Vessels in a Very Light Air.  Here we see a large sprit rigged yacht with an ornately caved transom (center) surrounded by a few scandalized spirt riggers as well as some sailing gaffers with square topsails (left) and a brailed gaff rig in the distance (right). The mid to late 17th century was an exciting time of innovation- the center board in England, the gaff rig, brailing sails, as well as the prevelence of frame first construction.

Willem van de Velde the Younger. 1633- 1707. A States Yacht and other Vessels in a Very Light Air.

Here we see a large sprit rigged yacht with an ornately caved transom (center) surrounded by a few scandalized spirt riggers as well as some sailing gaffers with square topsails (left) and a brailed gaff rig in the distance (right). The mid to late 17th century was an exciting time of innovation- the center board in England, the gaff rig, brailing sails, as well as the prevelence of frame first construction.

The use of the single staysail bent onto the forestay can be seen in much of the 17th centuries fore and aft coasting and inshore craft as well as some of the larger square rigged three masted ocean going vessels (although quite rare). Historian and model maker R.C. Anderson suggests the common use of a true jib, that is, a jib set flying on its halliard did not come into play until 1660 (although primarily interested in larger square rigged vessels) (Anderson, The Rigging of Ships. 1994). The likely date based on an analysis of artwork during the time period suggests a slightly earlier date (as the aforementioned 1650 boyer by Nooms clearly shows) The use of a square spritsail was far more common and can be seen in most depictions of boyers and other ketch equivalents of the 17th century. The bowsprit of the 16th and early 17th centuries functioned primarily as a place to lead bowlines and the topmast stay to, which provides its teleology. As jibs come into use so do bobstays and later, bowsprit shrouds, martingales, backropes and all of the other 18th century accoutrement. Bobstays were surely not in use during the early 17th century (ibid. pg 90) but can be seen on later vessels of similar size and rig such as hookers. Carrying a jib is very easy however from a rigging and sail operation perspective and the construction of rigging to accommodate the sail is in no way time intensive. While historical research on the matter is difficult, various other replica vessels of similar time period and rig (cf, Onrust 1614) have been built to carry a jib.

Our architect Iver Franzen’s artistic rendering of his sail plan for the new Maryland Dove. From aft to forward, bottom to top: A bonneted lateen mizzen, brailing sprit rigged main with reefing nettles, square topsail, inboard staysail with reef nettles, two outboard flying jibs, and one square spritsail.

Our architect Iver Franzen’s artistic rendering of his sail plan for the new Maryland Dove. From aft to forward, bottom to top: A bonneted lateen mizzen, brailing sprit rigged main with reefing nettles, square topsail, inboard staysail with reef nettles, two outboard flying jibs, and one square spritsail.

The new Maryland Dove should prove to be a very capable sailor with her scalable rig and variety of sail combinations. In heavy weather perhaps she will sail with a reefed main and staysail. In typical conditions, mizzen, main, topsail, staysail, and square spritsail. In light wind the full set. From a lay persons perspective, the rig will be the most significant change from the 1978 Dove to the 2021 Dove. Its a very exciting responsibility to build such a rig and to take part in the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of the design- there will be nothing like her. More posts to come on build details, spar making, block making, and material usage.

Till next time

SH

Frames from the Loft Floor

Frame (v.)

Old English framian "to profit, be helpful, avail, benefit," from fram (adj., adv.) "active, vigorous, bold," originally "going forward," from fram (prep.) "forward; from" (see from). Influenced by related Old English fremman "help forward, promote; do, perform, make, accomplish," and Old Norse fremja "to further, execute." Compare German frommen "avail, profit, benefit, be of use."

Sense focused in Middle English from "make ready" (mid-13c.) to "prepare timber for building" (late 14c.).

This week marks the beginning of a lengthy and substantial process in the construction of the Maryland Dove: The beginning of framing the ship. Even a lay person in ship construction should be familiar with the series of core structural members to which we fasten planks to, called frames. The frames of the vessel attach to the longitudinal foundational backbone piece- the keel and are constructed of a series of smaller components called futtocks. In smaller ship construction we have frames that may be steam bent into a shell or over a mold sometimes called ribs, most commonly in smaller lapstrake or clinkerbuilt construction. On some vessels frames are cut out of grown timbers and are known as sawn frames. In larger vessels these large sawn frames are coupled in their sided dimension with another sawn frame and are thusly referred to as double sawn frames, precisely the method of frame building we will be using with the Maryland Dove.

It seems that historically, the term rib was used interchangeably with futtock. In ‘A Treatise on Shipbuilding’, c. 1620, a definition is given: The futtocks or ribs of the ship are certain round pieces of compass timber swept out according to the mould of every bend”. During the early 17th century it seems that the practice of single sawn frames to have been more common, however large grown timber scarcity, as well as familiarity of construction in the double sawn style; has lead us to selecting this type of construction for our project.

The shape of the frame is patterned out from the loft floor using the body plan station lines which represent either the aft or forward face of the outside of the framing depending on if you are looking at the aft or forward projection of the ship in this particular view. Check out the previous post on lofting to get caught up on some of the terminology here. We use Scottish nails, trimmed finish nails, or registration sticks to transfer information from the lofting to the pattern stock. Scottish nails are simply nails to be used laid on edge with the heads trimmed into a triangular shape. The nails rest along the line to be picked up and the ply wood pattern stock is pressed into them to record the information. The taper from the keel upwards to the top of the frame is given by the architect and narrows substantially from 10” to near 4”; this information is battened off onto the pattern and the shape of our frame comes into view. After the pattern is made we have to record the rolling bevel along the frame. It should be understood that a ships frame has a bevel on the outside face to accommodate the planking as it bends across the shape of the vessel. This bevel is different closer to the keel or garboard strake than it is near the load waterline or sheer. Because this bevel changes inch by inch as you make your way along a frame we refer to it as a rolling bevel. The bevel degrees can be found in a few ways, two of which we have been using depending on the placement of the frame in the ship.

A square, bevel gauge, and bevel finder:

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Our frames are 22” apart. If a square is projected upward normal to the station line in the body plan view and a straight edge is placed at the 22” vertical mark resting at the next station line. The angle created between the straightedge and the loft floor is the bevel to be recorded on the frame pattern. The image above is a simplification, when using this method repetitively a simple device is made which holds the square in an upright position to ensure accuracy and ease of use.

Another method is called “Magic Stick” and was the preferred method used by my mentor Bob Darr as well as his lofting mentor Jim Linderman:

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A radius is drawn which represents the spacing between two frames (one can also be used, but two should give a more accurate bevel), in our case this radius is 44” as the frame spacing is 22”. An arc is drawn using our known radius and is boxed off to provide us with 1/4 the circumference of our circle. The circumference is found (π x d, 3.14 x 88) and equals 276.32”. This circumference is then divided by 360 which equals .767” or 25/32”. This gives us our incremental spacing to draw our degrees along the arc of 1/4 of our circle. When finished marking the degrees make sure that you have exactly 90. It might be helpful to begin by measuring out from each end, meeting in the middle. Then using a long straight edge you project the even degrees along the arc outward from the center of the circle to the y axis which is nearest the wooden “magic stick” in the image above. These degrees are transferred along the y axis and then onto your magic stick. In our case we only measured out every 2 degrees.

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The magic stick is then brought to the frame in question on the loft floor where the 0 point rests and is laid normal to the line outward to the frame two spacings away. Whichever number is closest to that frame is the bevel in degrees recorded in that particular area on your pattern. There’s some obviously some front end work here, but it turns our to be a substantial labor saving device.

Whichever method is used, the found degree is then observed on a bevel board cut to the width of our futtocks, in our case 3 1/2”. The space between the top and bottom of the bevel is recorded on the side of the bevel board and represents how much material will be lost when cutting out our beveled profile on the ship saw. If an inch of material is to be lost on an underbevel than on the other side of the futtock you must add an inch to recover the loss so that each side of the frame remains the same dimension.

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Our southern live oak futtocks are flattened on a router flattening jig and the bevels are cut using the ship saw with one person feeding and the other adjusting the bevel of the saw to the recorded degrees. The frames are treenail fastened on a large floor called the horning floor. Horning is the process by which frames are aligned to assure that they are level. We will have more on frame construction in the coming weeks. Below you will find an example of the kind of material that we cut our futtocks from as well as the flattening jig that we have rigged to our bandmill.

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Till next time!

SH

Rabbet

The line being cut to the left, nearest the bottom of the keel, is the rabbet line. The middle depth- the apex. The right most and upper line- the bearding line. note the wider spacing between the apex and bearding lines to accommodate the planking as it makes a steeper entry into the keel near the stern.

The line being cut to the left, nearest the bottom of the keel, is the rabbet line. The middle depth- the apex. The right most and upper line- the bearding line. note the wider spacing between the apex and bearding lines to accommodate the planking as it makes a steeper entry into the keel near the stern.

This week we’ve been cutting out the rabbet or rebate as it is sometimes spelled on our keel and stem assembly. A rabbet is a 90 degree inlaid notch cut into the face or along the edge of a piece of wood. The keel and stem have a long rabbet cut into them to accommodate the vessel’s planking. We find the rabbets design from expanding sections of the hull in the lofting. Three points are found which are then battened off to create curved lines which will be connected and chiseled out. The first set of points represents the inside corner or the plank in the rabbet, this is called the “apex” or “inner rabbet”. The second is the “bearding line” which on the keel is the upper line above the apex which is where the face of the garboard or lowermost plank exits its place of contact with the keel. The third and last set of points is the rabbet proper, or the “outer rabbet” as it is sometimes called, which touches the opposing corner of the edge of the plank to that of the apex. These three points are connected to create a 90 degree angle in all cases, however this angle shifts in its orientation to the material depending on whether the planking makes a steeper or more acute approach to the keel such as in the stern or a wider angle such as in the stem. At the bow the planks approach the stem at a very wide angle, we call this characteristic in ship design a “bluff bow”. This means that the distance between the bearding line and apex line gets much wider as we move aft and smaller as we move forward. The depth of the rabbet in relation to the face of the material changes as well. The planking which will land in our rabbet is 2 1/4” ,however because of its changing approach to the keel and stem it is much deeper in the stern and shallower at the bow. Because of the complexity of this shape we have little use of power tools aside for setting the depth and establishing the apex using a skilsaw. We then connect the lines making small 3 inch wide rabbet notches at a couple frame spacings of width apart with chisels. After the notches are made we connect them by quickly wasting material away between the established notches. We then work material down to an acceptable surface with an accurate 90 degree angle to power plane with the power rabbet planer. It might also be noted that in some building styles particularly that of wooden work boat construction in the Chesapeake Bay, the rabbet is eliminated by building using and inner stem and keelson which takes a rolling bevel. The inside corner where inner and outer stem meet would create the apex and the outside after edge of the outer stem the rabbet line. The bearding line would be found on the inner stem. We find this method of building at CBMM on nearly all of our deadrise style workboats including our skipjack and buy boat. In some building traditions the inner stem is called the stemliner vs the outer stem simply being the stem proper.

The rabbet in the stem, note the wider spacing between apex and rabbet lines in this portion of the rabbet.

The rabbet in the stem, note the wider spacing between apex and rabbet lines in this portion of the rabbet.

Madness to our Method or Method to our Madness

“Looks like you’re doin’ that the hard way!”, a teasing observer comments while watching one of our shipwrights dub (carve or cut) material away from the stem using a traditional edge tool called an adze.

“Looks like you’re doin’ it the easy way!”, a visitor quips while watching a shipwright cut the profile of the sternknee out with a chainsaw.

All of our shipwrights are accustomed to responding to such sensible comments regarding our mixed usage of traditional and contemporary tools and techniques. Our methodology is one born of some philosophy, but primarily of necessity. While we do strive to maintain and preserve the competent use of hand tools; the preservationist inclination is not the primary reason for their usage at our museum, but rather the practicality of traditional hand tools, especially edge tools.

Take as an example the making of a gripe, a backbone piece joining the keel, stem, and keelson. When we approach a piece of raw material, we may begin by establishing a relatively flat surface using the bandmill, proceeding by then establishing an opposing parallel surface or perpendicular surface depending on the size of material and tools being used. The bandmill is a very efficient and effective tool. Care must be paid to its use as it can begin to dive into the material further than the set depth of the cut, especially with a dull blade, a significant imperfection in the wood like a knot, or improper lubrication. Without the use of a bandmill you can set up an Alaskan chain saw mill ( a chainsaw on a track cutting horizontally) or even a track to run a large skilsaw along. If a mill is not available, hand tools such as broad axes and adzes can be used to carefully hew a flat surface.

the usage of a large skilsaw while cutting the scarf for the keel

the usage of a large skilsaw while cutting the scarf for the keel

The usage of hand tools in this preliminary phase of construction takes considerable time. The advantage may be that error is slow as a skilled worker maintains constant control of the tool and slowly approaches flat. Another advantage lies within the accessibility of the tool, its maintenance, reliability, and simplicity. Power tools can be very accurate and very efficient, however, when mistakes are made they are made quickly and with typically greater consequences that are more difficult to reverse. When power tools are available and time is taken to perfect their use and maintenance the craftsperson gains a new agency and level of expertise in his or her relationship to the tool which can ensure the accuracy of their use.

Because we take maintenance into account and have trained and careful operators of our mill, it is the obvious tool of choice for the above application. The next step in cutting out our gripe is to cut the joinery which is relatively complex in a gripe as it is essentially a joinery piece. After a pattern from the loft floor (see previous post here) is placed on our milled material and its shape is traced, we then proceed by cutting its shape using a large skilsaw allowing a 1/16th or 1/8th of an inch of space away from our line. after a skilsaw cut is established on each face we complete the cut using our “Bigfoot” chainsaw jig. The bigfoot platform allows you to use a chainsaw for ripping while making a nearly perfect perpendicular cut. At this point we begin to get a lot of attention. Comments such as, “they would have used them back in the day if they had them!”, or the classic accusation, “that’s cheating!”. And now please allow for a minor digression.

Shipwright Cole Myerhoff and Lead Joe Connor using the bigfoot chainsaw to cut out the lower gripe.

Shipwright Cole Myerhoff and Lead Joe Connor using the bigfoot chainsaw to cut out the lower gripe.

We are not living history performers, but workers trained in a living discipline. The building of traditional wooden vessels has prevailed through technological innovation for reasons better suited for another post and the industry that supports the building and maintenance of those vessels has as well (shops, schools, tool manufacturers, captains, etc). We use the tools that make sense to us and do not work from a position of sentimentality or of a conscious demonstration of period living history style education regardless of the fact that we are building a 17th century reproduction vessel. It should be noted that we also do not maintain a defense of modern tool usage via an anachronistic retrospect or speculation as to what shipwrights in the past would have utilized from the present. This kind of rationale has a number of theoretical holes, the foremost being that, if we assume that a shipwright from the past would be delighted by the use of a pneumatic sawzall (yes, we do have one); then would it not be sound argumentation to draw the conclusion that they may also be delighted at the possibility of building their vessels out of steel, aluminum, or fiberglass? Many boat builders began to build using fiberglass or wood composite methods in the mid 20th century, others maintained the tradition of plank on frame boat building.

There’s an idea in linguistics that I like to apply to craft. If a linguist finds that a language has changed to the point that a significant population of its speakers can no longer understand that language, then indeed it has developed into a new language. On the other hand, if a language stops evolving, i.e., incorporating new words into its lexicon or shifting its grammatical structure ever so slowly as its speakers naturally dictate via its spoken use; or if the language is exclusively preserved for use in ritual, ceremonial, or educational function, e.g., liturgical practice or textual analysis- then it is a dead language.

Craft can be viewed through this analytic easily. First, lets look at the case of a new language diverging from a sister or mother language. Perhaps a few builders in the mid 19th century learn metal fabrication and incorporate iron workers into their shop and iron frames into their vessel, later the entire vessel is of steel and iron and the shops that produce them are nearly unintelligible to the workers who navigated the shops that built their ancestral types from wood. In this case through material usage (lexicon) and methodology (syntax) we have a new craft which the former craftsman are not competent in, although they may understand it better than someone in an entirely different discipline. In the case of a dead language, you might have something like a purely 17th century European building style which is constrained by historical norms that can then be studied through archaeology and historical record. The success of the project is only then judged by the historical accuracy of the methods and techniques of building. This would be akin to a student learning Homeric Greek in order to study the Iliad. It’s only alive insofar as our interpretation of history (of material, of texts, of historic sites) is alive. This style of building is essentially a practice of experimental archaeology, as it may help us derive conclusions as to how builders in the past may have had to work or of how the vessels that they built had to sail. Builders have also worked this way in order to better understand their living traditions via their historical roots, again, think of a student of Italian with an interest in learning Latin.

So we maintain that we are working within a living tradition, our influence from the past is considerably more self evident because the tradition is inherently conservative and the vessels we build are often inspired by 19th century or earlier types. Wooden boat building was refreshed in the 1970s during what some call “the wooden boat renaissance” which saw the birth of boat building schools and new cultural output such as Woodenboat magazine. This renaissance had a kind of Arts and Crafts movement ideal toward self reliance, simplicity, sustainability and perhaps a bit (or more than a bit) of romanticism. Here in 2019 we are still riding the wave of this movement. All of this considered, we also come from an Eastern Shore boat building tradition which is seeped in pragmatism, adaptation, improvisation and resourcefulness. I would say that both of these influences run through our shop strongly.

Getting back to our gripe! Its time to powerplane those chainsaw cut surfaces. Powerplanes are awesome tools. In my boatbuilding apprenticeship we never used them. My teacher thought they were too loud and annoying (see above on romanticism). We use power rabbet planes to get into corners, power compass planes to cut concave surfaces, and very large flat soled power planes for joining surfaces (bringing together two or more relatively flat surfaces). These planes will bring us down close to our line. At this point we may attempt a fit with the two or more joining surfaces. When you have a simple joining surface landing into another, you might go ahead, trusting your lofting and pattern making and cut right to your line before fitting; but when you need to wiggle a piece of wood in between three others you might want to check to see if everything is going according to plan. A 1/6th” of slope on one face could have big consequences for the overall fit. After a few marks are laid down signifying adjustments to be made, we might proceed with power planes further or switch to hand edge tools like planes and slicks. These tools make a smoother surface and can be used with great control and precision. You can also hack a good bit of material away with hand tools, do not be mislead into thinking that they are merely for the finish. When wasting a lot of material quickly in a complex form we often use axes and adzes then going to power planes and then back to regular planes. At this point our process is complete after a few more fits and adjustments. Our piece is painted out to ensure even drying and we move on.

Lead shipwright Joe Connor and shipwright Michael Allen establishing the final fitting surfaces of two joining pieces

Lead shipwright Joe Connor and shipwright Michael Allen establishing the final fitting surfaces of two joining pieces

In conclusion, we use new tools and we use old tools. We have a host of methods and techniques of building which may be slightly more slow to change than our tools. Like a language who’s structure doesn’t change much but that adopts and borrows new words and phrases often. Much more can be said here, but I’ll spare you. For the ultimate meditation on contemporary technique and traditional form check out Shipwright Cole Myerhoff’s blog posts on the building of log canoe Caroline. We also see many plank on frame vessels which have strip plank (edge glued) repairs, fiberglassed decks, laminate (glued) frames, etc. Some shipwrights are much more apprehensive or discerning in their use of such methods while others will quickly use whatever works in the moment. This irregularity or idiomatic reality of our trade is another testament to its life.

Till next time.

SH

Wood is Good

An Eastern Shore stand of loblolly pine

An Eastern Shore stand of loblolly pine

Our forests and traditional resource base

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) is located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, in the midshore region. Our forests are dominated by mixed pine-oak forest in a large topographic or “physiographic” region called the Atlantic coastal plain. Maryland lies in the north of this region, meaning that our native species are often at the northern limit of their range. Within this region we have Atlantic white cedar and bald cypress swamps, expanses of pine forest dominated by loblolly, salt marsh regions with smaller scrubpines and wax myrtles, and brackish tidal flats.

The pine oak forest includes short leaf and long leaf yellow pine, the latter of the two with a population 3% that of its former range. The very resinous long leaf yellow pine was the creme de la creme of coniferous boat building woods during the earlier centuries and was tremendously over harvested. Long leaf yellow pine is considerably more rot resistant than the other pines in this region and boards from virgin forest were known to be 3.5’ wide. These forests are now primarily loblolly pine, a wood commonly used in boat building on the eastern shore for anything from mast building to log bottom construction use. These forests are also home to red maple, sassafras, sugar maple, white and green ash, white oak, post oak, and southern red oak. White oak (Quercus alba) is a commonly cultivated wood which can be used for nearly anything aside from spars and masts and was used historically in shipbuilding, house construction and furniture making. White oak is relatively rot resistant and water resistant because of its cell structure. Red oak has been used in work boat construction but does not possess the same qualities of workability or rot resistance as white oak. Atlantic white cedar is another prime wood for boat builders as its tight buttery grain is a joy to work. It is considerably harder than red cedar although softer than the coveted west coast port orford ceder. Cedars are generally more rot resistant than pines. Atlantic white cedar is a wonderful wood to use for planking. Bald cypress, a species often associated with more southern states, covers the largest swath of land on the eastern shore in the most contiguous forest of Delmarva known as the Great Cypress Swamp. Bald cypress has been frequently used for planking, decking, and mast building. Cypress is very water and rot resistant. The last native species of note used in boat construction is white and green ash, both used for wooden fair-leads, blocks, and other rigging components. Ash is strong, dense, and straight grained.

Commonly cultivated on the Eastern Shore, but non native trees of note include black locust and osage orange. Both species are very dense, workable, pest and rot resistant. Osage has been used particularly for grown knees and futtucks. Black locust for smaller vessel backbone joinery pieces as well as for treenails in traditional construction.

Delmarva’s Great Cypress Swamp

Delmarva’s Great Cypress Swamp

What we’re using, how we’re using it, where it comes from, and why:

White oak: As mentioned above, white oak is a solid and very traditional choice wood for ship construction. Nearby we still have very large trees which are sustainably harvested. Our white oak comes from West Virginia and Ohio. We will use white oak for topsides planking, upper futtucks, clamp and shelf, mast partners, lodging knees, and for the breast hook. It should also be noted that the historical Dove would most likely have been built almost entirely from English oak, a material very similar to our local white oak, making this choice historically accurate as well.

Southern live oak: We are very proud to include this species as a dominant feature in the construction of the new Dove as it is truly as good as it gets from a ship builders perspective. Dense but not brittle, rot resistant, pest resistant, with extraordinary grown timber being available to us from Steve Cross in southern Georgia. If you are unfamiliar with Steve, you may be more familiar with a few of the large scale ship building projects he has supplied including San Salvador, Ernestina Morrisy, Mah Jong, Tally Ho, and HMS Surprise. Southern live oak was the ship building wood of choice for the US Navy during its centuries of wooden sailing ship construction. Constitution’s nick name, “Old Iron Sides” is a testament to its durability. We will use our Quercus virginiana for the stempost, gripes, apron, aft deadwood, lower futtucks, floors, main whale, and deck furniture.

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Shipwright Jeff Reid works on fitting our southern live oak apron and stempost using a power compass plane

Shipwright Jeff Reid works on fitting our southern live oak apron and stempost using a power compass plane

White Ash: our white ash will be used for block construction, dead eyes, and other rigging components. Its use and workability is noted above. Ash was a very commonly used wood in English vessel construction during the 17th century all the way through to the 20th century as noted by prominent English maritime historian Edgar J. March. We owe our thanks to Capt. Rick Carrion for allowing us to harvest from his property in Cecil County just a drive up the road from our campus.

Black Locust: Why would you use anything else for treenails if you have locust available? its incredibly rot resistant and far more pest resistant than honey locust, and is locally available. Another shout out to Capt. Rick, as this was another species harvested from his large rural property north of us.

Milled white ash billets for solid construction blocks drying in our solar kiln

Milled white ash billets for solid construction blocks drying in our solar kiln

Atlantic White Cedar: another phenomenal local material, its light weight and rot resistance lends itself well to its use as bulwark material. Bulwarks are particularly prone to rot because of their vulnerability to standing fresh water.

Angelique: We are building to last and must ensure that our vessel does not fall victim to worm damage, a primary concern in the bay’s rivers such as that of where the new Maryland Dove will live at Historic St. May’s City. While we admire the existing Maryland Dove built by the great shipwright Jim Richardson, we’d like the new Dove to last longer. Jim built using nearly exclusively locally available wood and material, something which inspires our construction as well; however, hardwood timber in our scantling size with long uninterupted straight grain is exceedingly difficult to source locally. We have chosen to use Angelique from Suriname in south america for our below water planking and bilge stringers. Angelique is very resistant to worm damage and has become a boat builders go to wood for planking stock in projects such as our own. All of our Angelique is sustainably harvested and meets the highest demand of environmental stewardship in the exotic hardwood lumber industry.

Cortez: Cortez is a type of Ipe or Ironwood harvested in Suriname. It is heavier than water at around 70lbs per cubic foot. Its extraordinarily straight uninterrupted grain and superior qualities of durability lend its use to keel construction in ship building. Our Cortez will be used for the Keel, false keel, wormshoe, inner and outer sternposts, keelson, deadwood.

Our stockpile of cortez

Our stockpile of cortez

Part of the joy of woodworking is in recognizing that wood is not a homogenous material and that it not only varies species to species but piece by piece. Learning how to “see” wood is really a skill unto itself within the trade of boatbuilding. Come down and take a look at our stock of material for this project and ask us how we’re using it and why. As always, if you have access to material that you feel may be usable in the build and would like to donate, please get in contact with us!

Till next time.

SH

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On Lofting Maryland Dove

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 Lofting is a process of drawing a complex vessel to scale typically from a set of plans in order to fair curved shapes, record bevels and rabbet lines, and conveniently build patterns or templates for construction. Fairing is the process of ensuring that all lines drawn and thus built are free of bumps, awkward flat spots, and hard to build curves. Fairing is accomplished by bending long wooden, plastic , or fiber glass “battens” around points relative to known grid lines and then comparing those bent lines to their corresponding lines drawn in two separate views.

There are many techniques and methods in recording information from a lofting and in drawing specific lines, however the foundational concepts as far as drawn views are concerned are more or less universal. There are three views often drawn overlapping one another and a fourth sub-view. The first is the “body plan”- a view of the vessel looking dead ahead or dead astern through the vessel. The second, the “profile”, is a view broadside, that is, viewing the vessel directly from the side. The third view is the “half-breadth”, or a birds-eye view of the vessel where the vessel is bisected directly down the middle through the fore and aft line. A last partial view is occasionally added somewhere above the lofting, which shows projected “diagonals”, more on that later.

Each view includes three types of drawn lines (and sometimes a fourth) which will come to represent the shape of the vessel. In each view two of the lines are straight and often double as grid lines, and one of the three types of lines are curved. The first type are called “station lines”, in the half breadth and profile view they are straight slices- like a bread loaf, and in the body plan they are curved lines which may approximate or directly represent the vessel’s framing. The second, the “waterlines”, are straight lines in the profile and body plan and are slices through the vessel like you would fillet a fish or cut a bagel. They follow theoretical waterlines as the vessel sits higher or lower in the water and are curved in the half-breadth view. The third are called “buttuck lines” and are typically the most difficult for a newby to conceptualize, they are slices through the vessel like you would cut focaccia- they are straight lines in the body plan and half-breadth and curved in the profile. Lastly, we draw diagonals through the body plan, which most closely follow the planking schedule and help us determine how difficult our vessel may be to build. When projected they might look similar to the water lines in the half breadth view, but are actually much more helpful in fairing the shape of the vessel as they more closely approximate what will actually be built.

Lofting begins with a smooth flat surface and carefully drawn grid lines to a convenient spacing. Points are traditionally drawn from a “table of offsets” provided by an architect which are relative measurements of points to loft given in feet, inches, and eighths. A baseline is selected to draw the half-breadth from and it is decided if you would like to loft to the inside of the planking (outside of the framing), or to the outside of the planking which will allow you to draw a vessel more accurate to what the finished vessel will look like. The first is more convenient and useful for building, the latter for designing.

Typically the profile perimeter, half breadth perimeter, and a midship station in the body plan are drawn. Afterwards, a few more bodyplan stations, a load water line in the half breadth, and a quarter-beam buttuck in the profile. As more waterlines, stations, and buttucks are drawn, intersecting points are compared against one another in the corresponding views and small errors down to a sixteenth of an inch are corrected. You begin with a lot of freedom and slowly lock yourself into your lofting. Mistakes and errors are easy to fix early on and can take a lot of time to work out further down the line.

Joinery details in the backbone build, rabbet lines, and frame bevels can then be recorded and used for the build. Shipwright, Spencer Sherwood worked on the lofting nearly single handedly for a month and a half. Master shipwrights Ed Farley and Frank Townsend helped with corrections for the last month, with the supervision of lead shipwright Joe Connor.

A brief history: Lofting was developed naturally during the 19th century as shipbuilding was industrialized and there was interest and economic demand to build vessels with a high level of precision in a production line fashion. Instead of vessels being built “by rack of eye”, using tacit knowledge and understanding perhaps aided by geometric or proportional rule- vessels were now being built piece by piece with the exact dimension of pieces known, you could theoretically cut to the line and install. Before lofting and still to this day in many boat building traditions, pieces were built to approximation and material was deducted by dubbing as further information was gained during the course of the build. It should be noted that the historic Dove, and all 17th century vessels for that matter, were not built using lofting; the methods of building were based in geometric rule, proportion, and passed on inherited and tacit knowledge. Certain aspects of the build were determined by general desired type to be built as well as tonnage. Simple drawings were often made showing backbone details and frame spacing. These methods of building are now far from our practical knowledge. They may have been implemented in an experimental manner, but with a much slower time line in the construction. Today, most traditional boat builders build by analog lofting, computer aided drafting, or a combination of the two- as we are for the Maryland Dove.    

STH

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The Beginning

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My boat building mentor had this almost mysterious platonic view of building boats. He’d express that because we work from an ideal form, that we are involved with the divine, whether we carry explicitly spiritual beliefs personally or not. He thought that whenever an ideal exists that one strives to make manifest in the material world that they are caught up in a larger story, an old dream that has descended upon so many minds.  You could call it beauty, you could call it something else. So when I thought, how to begin writing on the progress of the build of the Dove, I thought of how my mentor’s view complicates the simplicity of how to locate the  beginning of the building of a ship.

A materialist might say that we didn’t start until we put blade to raw material and cut something out of it. An idealist on the other hand might say that this project has existed perennially and that it has only fallen upon us to act it out once again. An existentialist might say something far too complicated for this blog post. Wherever we began, I think it absurd to begin with a picture of the keel in the shipyard or to begin with the loft floor or a shot of the architect’s lines drawing. So consider this a prelude and consider it a giving of respect to those who have been possessed by this trade of shipbuilding before us, to the history that we are swimming in, to the raw material that we (attempt to) bend to our will, and to the dream that keeps us going- that keeps us building.

Its a hot and humid day in St Michaels this July 20th at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. In the shop our massive loft floor fills what used to be additional space for workbenches. Out back we have pieces of southern live oak and cortez which are being used for the backbone build up all in various stages of shaping. Out front and piled up along the perimeter of the yard you’ll see slabs of white oak and long lengths of locally harvested ash and some not so locally harvested angelique.  Come on a weekday and you’ll surely meet a few of our eleven staffed shipwrights perhaps sweating beneath a straw hat- Anywhere you look you’ll catch a buzz of the Dove project.

We have nearly completed lofting out the vessel from the drawings provided to us by our architect, but born out of collaboration between lead builders, historians, archaeologists and sea captains; and we are close to finalization of our joinery configuration which is a dance between ideals of structural integrity and available material. We’ve also sifted through all of our cortez and live oak- setting pieces aside for the keelson, gripes, sternposts, etc. The keel was fastened a month ago and the stem and sternposts are being shaped currently.  In the coming week we’ll see backbone pieces getting closed out, and perhaps a rabbet cut into our keel. We’re in full swing and hope you’ll follow along as we craft a new icon for the state of Maryland and continue to peer into the mysteries of shipbuilding. 

-Samuel T Hilgartner
lead rigger/ shipwright