Monday, February 22, 2010

Building Ribs

Now that we've had our party I suppose it's time to get back to work. The next weekend after the party, winter descended on Truro and a very cold one.We spent days that were fit to be in the boatshed cutting out the notches for the ribs to sit in. The ribs are situated about 12" center to center from each other which leaves about an 8" span between. She is well ribbed. The ribs are made of oak, as is the keel and the deadwood. They are laminated together with 3 oak boards 1 3/8" x 4" (making a rib 4 1/8" x 4"). They are steam bent in a steel jig that we made here and can adjust to fit the different sizes and shapes of the ribs. We had to make a steamer for the oak and cut the oak logs to the sizes need for the ribs.It was really quite a time. By the time we actually got to the steaming of the timbers it was summer. Sheamus helped quite a bit with bending the ribs and putting them in place. We also had a neighbour, Alden McNutt who came up quite often to lend a hand with the work. As we put up ribs we had to keep adding an upper walkway all around the boatshed so that we could reach the upper parts of the ribs and temporarily set them in place before going on to the next one. They had to have spreaders on them to keep them from getting narrower and spacers to keep them at the right distance from each other and then we had to fasten them to the wall of the shed to hold them in place temporarily. We decided to put in every 4th rib using this method so that the vessel would have shape and so that we could put on the lateral supports (harpens- I'm not actually sure how to spell that.)which fairs out the schooner so that when the rest of the ribs go in we can just steam them and have a day when a bunch of interested workers can come and just place them without having to use the steel jig. They can just be held in place and bolted right on the vessel.
All of the harpens are in place now and what we were doing in the fall was adjusting the ribs to sit in the correct places and making sure that the water line was sitting properly on the ribs. If not we had to adjust the ribs to suit- you can't change the water line, right.
Misfortune has a way of rearing its head at the most inopportune times. We were moving a shed from a piece of land to bring it back home when Warren got his feet tangled in some old brambles and blackberry bushes and fell forward. He couldn't get his feet out ahead of himself and so put his arm out to catch himself. An ambulance ride, dislocated elbow and a couple of days later he was home and ready get go again. Unfortunately,his arm had other plans and so he had to hold off for 6 weeks.We had to drain the steam box so that the water wouldn't freeze and split the tank. The healing of the arm took us through to Christmas. In January we started to build blocks for the vessel because it is quite cold in the shed (it's unheated) and Warren's arm needed to have a little time to get back into shape. Winter is a great time to do the things that can be done in the basement where it's warm. All is good.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I have just come up from downstairs and am covered head to toe in a very fine ash sawdust.We are making rope blocks for this vessel. There are 59- 6" blocks which amounts to 120 cheek (side)pieces and 20 middle pieces. There are single blocks as well as double and triple blocks. There are wooden spacers (webs) between the cheeks and middles (in doubles and triples) to allow space for the sheaves and rope. They are drilled and bolted through. We glued them with epoxy as well. Then they are shaped and sanded down and then varnished to help protect them and prevent them from splitting.
We have already made the 11',10' 8' and 7' blocks. Really I should have started to blog earlier in the process but who knew....

We started the whole process about a year and half ago or better. Last November ('08) we invited 100 or so of our friends to a keel laying party here at the boatshop. We had the keel (the backbone of the schooner) and the deadwoods already in place and had cleared the boatshed so that our friends could safely move about and socialize. We had our son's girlfriend, Brenda Mac Donald pipe in the guests for the evening. She did an amazing job. As I recall, it rained a sea so we made sure that she and her bagpipes were out of the weather. The Master of Ceremonies for the night was our friend Nello Romagnoli, who had made the trip from Ontario with his wife, Janet, for the occasion. A brief history of my husband's boatbuilding and sea going ancestry was put forth (from Ireland and great grandfathers to Truro) and then we had a ceremonial inspection of the keel, performed by John MacNab. He proclaimed her sound and to continue with the building. The last thing to happen before we retired to wonderful meal of turkey, cabbage rolls and seafood chowder with dessert, of course,was the driving of the golden spike. This secured the bronze keel plate which bears her name and the date of her beginning. We had 4 generations help with the fastening of the keel plate: The original Lena Blanche, Warren's Mother, then 90 years old hammered the spike in her kitchen in Seal Harbour, N.S. because she was unable to make the journey to Truro. She is a fine woman and with pleasure we asked if she would honour us by allowing us to use her name as the name of this vessel. She allowed it and thus the name of the schooner- long may she sail.
The representative of the next generation was Warren's sister, Linda Pellerin. She gave several sturdy wallops of the hammer to the bronze spike and turned it over to the next generation. Our daughter , Bria, took the hammer with enthusiasm and struck the spike with glee. She laughed and passed the 5 lb. hammer to our granddaughter, Emily, who promptly complained that the hammer was too heavy. Bria helped her get it set up and then she gave the spike a few timid taps. Her father, Neil, and grandfather, Warren, good humouredly told her to hit the spike harder. She passed the hammer to Grampie to finsh the job. With several thunderous blows the spike was driven into the keel plate and keel. Home at last. Great applause and congratulations ensued. It was fun.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Starting Out

We've decided that since so many people seem interested in the building of this vessel that we should offer a regular update of the progress of the project.
Right from the start I will say that this vessel is NOT a yacht and will never be so referred. She is a vessel. A yacht is full of chrome , plush seats and horse power. A boat is a lifeboat, a fishing boat, a rowboat (all noble, respected tools of industry). A ship is usually made of steel, huge (eg. bulk carriers) or naval ships.
A vessel, on the other hand, as referred to on our shores for hundreds of years is a fore and aft rigged schooner, sloop or whaler that plied our waters carrying freight and fish to our shores and the shores of New England. They were lovingly crafted of local woods and worthy of sail. They historically had no engines (although this one will).

The Lena Blanche is a fore and aft rigged topsail schooner with auxilliary engines. She will be crafted somewhat like the vessels built and known as Tancook Schooners. Her frames will be made of red oak,her planking will be of white pine and her decks will be fir. Everything else you'll know as we go along. We think this should take a couple of years to finish so patience on everyone's part is hoped for. Let's set sail.