Along the Lakeshore: July 31

A historic ship back in action

The water level has not varied 2 inches in the last three weeks. The drain-down has been cut back to the required minimum. When I think it is going down a bit, a big black cloud opens up and drops a load of rain on our watershed. A drop of 6 to 9 inches down to 862.5 or so feet would be a start. This would enable me to use my north dock and increase the beach a bit, perhaps enough to put my 10-foot rowboat on it. So much for the affairs of Bentley Cove …

Sue and I went to Mystic Seaport last Sunday to witness the launching of the restored whaleship Charles W. Morgan. The ship was launched in 1841 and taken out of service in 1921. She was moved to the Mystic River in 1941 where my brother took me to see the ship in the late 40s. She was landed on the sand and easy to view and visit. Mystic Seaport was later established and she was kept at a dock, rigged with sails and whale boats, but she has been out of the water several times for necessary repairs. She is the last of the 2,700 American whaleships. I sure have trouble with the Charles W. Morgan being a “she”, but all ships are female.

She was taken out of the water again in 2008 and the early work was devoted to assessing every part of the hull. Inside planking was removed to allow examination and eventual replacement all of framing from the keel up to the deck level.

These frames are almost solid wood, with spacing of about 6 inches between them. They are sawn from 4-inch-thick live oak timbers and it takes about three segments to reach from the keel to the deck. The oak logs, about 36 to 60 inches in diameter, are ripped and sliced on a giant band saw running on tracks about 10 feet apart. The logs do not have to be straight. The saw can also slice curved pieces which are useful for sharply curved frames. Braces or knees are often sliced from curved roots or the swellings at the bottom of the tree.

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