Monday, July 9, 2012

21st WoodenBoat Show @ Mystic Seaport_2: Gannon and Benjamin Tribute

Matt Murphy, Editor of WoodenBoat, opens the proceedings.

Matthew Stackpole

Emily Bramwell

Jon Wilson

Nat and Ross, and Carl Cramer,publisher of WoodenBoat








above photos copyright Thomas Armstrong

Rebecca launch


Rebecca's interior

Ross and Nat sailing Rebecca

all Rebecca photos courtesy Alison Shaw

Always a treat at the WoodenBoat Show is the tribute dinner, recognizing folks who have made a considerable contribution to the wooden boat community. This years recipients were Nat Benjamin and Ross Gannon, owners, creators and resident gurus of the internationally acclaimed Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway on Martha's Vineyard.  The Railway was born in 1980 as a result of the pair's sailing into Vineyard Haven Harbor and finding no railway to haul them out and so effect repairs. What has grown from their initial impulse has become a unique establishment dedicated to producing the highest quality wooden boats, and something of a cultural fixture on the Vineyard.

As in other years, there was a lineup of several speakers which included Matthew Stackpole, former executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Museum is currently working on the CW Morgan restoration, Emily Bramwell, Vineyard resident and owner of the 24' gaff sloop Nell a Nat Benjamin design built by the yard, Scott Dibiaso, skipper of Juno, the teams largest to date, a 65' schooner, again Nat's design, built at the yard, Brian and Pam Malcolm, current owners of Rebecca which they have sailed 25k miles,designed by Nat and built at the yard, Steve Corkery, legendary boat broker and Jon Wilson, founder of WoodenBoat magazine and who knew these guys before there was a WoodenBoat. 

What emerged over the course of the evening was a portrait of a boatyard unlike any other.  Called a 'magic place' and a 'temple of work' by Matthew Stackpole, he attested to a mingling of the tangible and spirit at the yard. No one, he allowed, is simply a visitor or client at this 'temple', all have a tool thrust into their unsuspecting hands, with some instruction. Emily Bramwell described how the addition of the railway/boatyard had a place in the forging of the islands identity. She related how, after a devastating fire in 1983, the community fell in and helped to save what could be salvaged and participated in the boatyard's resurrection. Scott Dibiaso had worked at the yard prior to becoming the skipper of Juno, recalled that the doors were unlocked and the lights on 24/7 and owners encouraged to work on their boats. Brian and Pam Malcom of Rebecca described the 2nd floor sail loft as pristine and compared it to the chaotic workshop, ankle deep in sawdust. Steve Corkery related an anecdote, which, if I could recall it all, would be titled "you call this a LEAK?". The last speaker was Jon Wilson, and he opened his remarks by reminding us all the work of these two giants of contemporary wooden boat building would not have been remotely possible without the behind the scenes support of their families. He went on to say that the Gannon and Benjamin boats are amazing to sail, a result of the blend of wisdom and experience brought to their design and construction. 

What I took away from the evening was a picture of a place somewhat paradoxical, and therefore very real. A place where a sort of hippie openness, a reverence for tradition, and the highest of work ethics and skill combine to indeed create a 'temple of work'.   I feel I must investigate at first hand!

Now, a disclaimer and an acknowledgement. In the above text I may or may not be quoting directly, but certainly within the spirit of the respective comments. Also, my own photos of Rebecca, taken at the show, were sadly ruined by an undetected bit of stuff on my camera lens, but serendipity came to the rescue. I have recently been contacted by the writing/photo team of Tom Dunlop and Alison Shaw, per a separate matter I'll write about later. These two produced the exquisite book 'Schooner', published by Vineyard Stories. The book is about the building of Rebecca and Alison Shaw kindly sent me some photos from their (highly recommended) work. I can't thank you enough. 

All three boats pictured above are Gannon and Benjamin productions and were present at Mystic for the weekend. The schooner Charlotte is the subject of a documentary film. She is Nat's personal boat, and an archive of her build is found here. Eleda is Ross' boat, designed by his nephew Antonio Salguero

Originally posted on 70.8% by Thomas Armstrong 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

21st WoodenBoat Show @ Mystic Seaport_1: Planking the CW Morgan

 A plank exits the steam box after about 3 hrs, cook time.

Picked up by the fork lift, the planks limberness is evident.

It's brought into the shed to be fitted.
 The new plank is lifted into place by many crew members. The popularity of this demo is apparent here, I could barely squeeze in enough to get a photo.

 These are all new planks save the very first visible
Drilling for the silicon bronze spikes...
and hammering it home.
The new plank in place.
The crew.
View of the large shed where much preliminary work is done.
Same again, you can see this is where the spars are being worked on or fabricated.

all the photos above copyright Thomas Armstrong
Morgan launch. A friend sent me a link to a page of early photos of the Morgan.

View aboard.

The two photos above courtesy PTLDME via John Brinton, thanks John.

This years WoodenBoat Show at Mystic Seaport was, as always, a great experience. One of the features of the show I enjoy most are the demonstrations, and this year they hit a home run. On both Friday and Saturday the CW Morgan crew demonstrated steam bending and planking for the big whaleship's restoration. A wow. The Morgan is being planked in a mix of white oak and longleaf yellow pine. These planks are 36' long, 14" wide and 3" thick and weigh in at an average of 500lbs. though there must be a bit of difference in the two species. I was unable to determine which I was photographing, but my money is on the pine. The plank is steamed for about 3 hrs. to make it pliable enough to conform to the shape of the hull.

The old adage is 'many hands make light work'. In the case of planking the Morgan, I would suggest that though there were indeed many hands involved, this is still not 'light' work. Once the new plank is in places it is clamped and wedged to allow the crew, a mix of volunteers and staff, to secure the plank with wooden trunnels and 7"silicon bronze spikes, robustly hammered into place as seen above.

This demonstration was highly instructive, revealing the immense effort being poured into the restoration of this massive icon. It was also wildly popular with the show attendees, as you can see in my photo taken from the stairway which goes up to her deck. I had to push in just to get a narrow shot of the plank going into place. Once things calmed a bit I was given a hardhat and allowed to get a little closer to the action. This work is ongoing, with the hull being re-planked from the garboard planks up. The lower, garboard planks are deemed worthy to stay in place but will receive copper plating. The projected relaunch date is about a year from now, with a voyage to New Bedford planned for 2014. 

Thanks to Mystic Seaport and WoodenBoat Magazine for continuing excellence, and a special thanks to John Brinton for his link.

Originally posted by Thomas Armstrong on 70.8%