Wednesday, July 17, 2013

22nd annual WoodenBoat Festival at Mystic Seaport .3

Around the Seaport

The 28' sandbagger 'Annie' was built by D. O. Richmond about a half mile downriver from the Seaport in 1880 and came to Mystic in 1931 as the first boat in a collection that now numbers over 500 craft. Much more of her story here.

'Aida' is a 33' keel/centerboard yawl built in 1926 by the Herreschoff Mfg. Co., designed by N. G. Herreschoff.

Recently restored by Doug Hylan in Brooklin, ME. More about 'Aida' here.

'Aida' is the most recent addition to the Seaport's fleet. There's a beautiful book about 'Aida' written by Maynard Bray available in the Seaport's bookstore.

The 'CW Morgan' in the water, on her cradle, "taking up" ie swelling her planks to a tight fit before her launch this Sunday, July 21, 2013.

A view to give a taste of the immensity of this ship.

Continuing the theme of immensity, here are some of the spars waiting in the wings for rigging the ship. She'll be rigged after the launch.

By way of supreme contrast, here's the microcruiser Scamp, a joint project of The Small Craft Advisor and noted NZ boat designer John Welsford.

? Found art

Higher ups aboard the 'Joseph Conrad'

Jon Wilson, the creator of WoodenBoat Magazine. We had a short chat and Jon informed me that while he's still at WoodenBoat almost daily, he is also deeply involved as director of a non-profit called JUST Alternatives which mediates victim/offender dialogue. There is an in depth article about this man with a foot in two worlds from Yankee Magazine, well worth your time.

Ben Fuller, "Living National Treasure" ( he'll no doubt hate that). Ben's an avid small boat advocate and member of the TSCA. Ben is the Curator at Penobscot Marine Museum (look into their extensive photo archives) and a former Curator at Mystic. He's also the owner of 'Ran Tan', more of which later. Here he's chatting with John Harris of CLC.

Coasting Schoooner 'Austraila' was built in 1862 on Long Island. She served as a blockade runner based in the Bahamas during the Cival War, and consequentially spent over 60 years in the Chesapeake hauling goods.

Later she was acquired by the DuPont family as their yacht, and was donated to Mystic in 1951. In 1961 she was hauled for refit but the damage at that time was too great, she was retired to a shed on campus as an educational exhibit. Read more..,

'Breck Marshall' is a reproduction Cape Cod catboat c.1900, built at  Mystic in 1987 and  in use today as an excursion boat for museum visitors. More...

The John Gardner Small Craft Workshop is held most years at Mystic as part of the WoodenBoat Festival. It is situated on Australia beach, adjacent to the 'Australia's shed and directly in front of the John Gardner Small Craft workshop, still in use, building small craft in the Gardner tradition. John was a visionary historian and teacher. He is credited with saving many American small craft from obscurity and as a key figure in the wooden boat revival. He served as Associate Curator of Small Craft at Mystic Seaport from 1969 to 1995. The workshop is held as a collaboration between Mystic Seaport, WoodenBoat Magazine and The Traditional Small Craft Association.

Good night, Mystic Seaport

A quick sail aboard 'Ran Tan'

'Ran Tan' is a modified wherry, drawn by Antonio Dias. imagined and owned by Ben Fuller.

Ben brought 'Ran Tan' down for the John Gardner Small Craft Workshop, which operates a livery under the auspices of the TSCA. Here you can try any of the offered boats, no charge.

Ran Tan is Irish slang for a sort of walkabout, according to Tony.

Tony is a friend and invited myself and brother John for a sail.

John's duty was to watch for other craft, especially where the sail blocked Tony's view. I, being considerably heftier, was assigned to be moving ballast. The boat is very light (200lbs.), and lively, so I was moving around quite a bit trying to keep her on the flat.

Antoino at the helm.

Sailing past the 'Morgan'

Tony and John back at the dock after a fun sail. I do not have lot's of experience in small craft and it was enlightening. Antonio Dias is a truly multifaceted man, artist, talented designer and writer, take a look at his website. Thanks, Tony. You can read an earlier post on this blog about Tony and his boat designs here.

Text and photos copyright Thomas Armstrong, first posted on 70.8%

Saturday, July 13, 2013

22nd annual WoodenBoat Festival at Mystic Seaport .2

St. Ayles Skiffs and 'Sephira'

Just below the far shoreline are two horizontal dashes, above the green buoy. That's a pair of St. Ayles skiffs having at it.

Here they are again, the nearer skiff is Canada's 'Sea Shadow' and an American boat, the 'William H Shipp' is just passing those pillings. At this point the crews have switched boats, I believe.  'The Joseph Conrad' in the background.

The crews gathered on the docks after racing, with the Apprenticeshop's whaleboat in the foreground.

A boat of a different color, the Sephira is a modified St Ayles. Also called the Musical Ark, she is rigged to be played like a harp and sing to whales. Interesting project, to say the least! 

As I write this the Skiffie Worlds are in full swing in Ullapool, on the northwest coast of Scotland. The St Ayles skiffs are an Iain Oughtred design, lapstrake ply rowing boats, expressly conceived for the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project. The initial idea was for communities to build their boats and compete with other communities. It took off like wildfire. There are now over 50 boats in Scotland and the project has spread to North America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands. The boats are built from cnc kits which interested groups purchase and the build themselves. For those who would like to dig a little deeper, there's loads of info here.

The sole competitor at the worlds from North America is an entry from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. But she's not the only St Ayles from the US in Ullapool. Also attending, but not competing, is 'Sephira', aka the Musical Ark. I was informed about this project by Alec Jordan, whose company Jordan Boats supplies the kits in the UK. Alec was in Mystic for the show, and though I'd corresponded with him in the past when writing about the project, we'd never met. I also met Gardner Pickering of Hewes & Company, the kit suppliers for North America.  Alec was very keen for me to write about the Ark, as it was defaying some of the expense involved in traveling to Ullapool with a kickstarter. I'm pleased to say that they reached their goal Friday afternoon but are still open for business into tomorrow if you'd like to get involved. This is an "insanely great" project and must see.
Also must see is Alec's report on the North American St Ayles Championship, the pair of boats pictured above, one from Picton, Ontario and the other from the Renbrook School near Mystic.

I Built It Myself

 Scott Matthews brought his lovely Arctic Tern.

This Oughtred design is a bit slimmer and lighter than a Ness, and a bit faster as well.

Phil Bacon lounging in his Caledonia Yawl

Rudder detail

Phil is pleased with the workboat finish, and I agree, better to sail than sand and varnish.

  Leonard  Rollins brought his restored Old town square stern lake canoe.

1940 Johnson power

Big Green dates from 1928 and was a total restoration

Another Oughtred design, this Ness Yawl was built by Walt Kangas

great attention to detail


'The Cat'

Piero Biancani built a lovely power catamaran.

 Yet another Oughtred design, this one a Whilly Boat.

 Again we see a sensible workboat finish, this by Aaron Ward who trailed his boat all the way from east Texas.

All photos and text copyright Thomas Armstrong, with the exception of the Musical Ark

Always a favorite of mine at the Festival is the I Built it Myself green. The boats are invariably immaculate and finely detailed. This year seemed to be dominated by Iain Oughtred designs and it's a pleasure to see some of the less built boats such as the Arctic Tern and the Whilly Boat. I've included four Oughtred boats here but there were two or three more. A highlight of this exhibit is the chance to chat with the owner/builders, a pleasure. I'm already curious as to what will show up next year. 

originally posted by Thomas Armstrong on 70.8%

Thursday, July 4, 2013

22nd annual WoodenBoat Festival at Mystic Seaport .1

Whaleboat convergence @ Mystic

 Gannon and Benjamin

The Gannon and Benjamin whaleboat surfaced alongside the small boat docks.


Michelle is my liaison at Beetle and she has been great, responsive and on top of her game.

Great Lakes Boat Building School

Beautifully finished interior, with bright ceiling planks, buff/cream planks and frames to compliment the blue grey.

The Apprenticeshop


Center and right are apprentices Simon Jack and Dan Creishar, crew on the boat on it's sail to Mystic

Skipper on the Apprenticeshop's sail and oar cruise from Rockland ME to Mystic, Brian McCarthy

Rocking the Boat

My brother John views the RTB boat.

 Independence Seaport's boat occupying ground recently vacated by the CW Morgan.
Skills demonstration: Caulking, with Walter and Evelyn Ansel

Here Walt is warming up before the demo. Onlookers are l to r, John Armstrong, Bruce McKenzie, lead boatbuilder for the ISM and John Swarzenbach, longtime volunteer at the Workshop on the water.

Caulking tools and supplies brought by the Ansels

Evelyn and Walt discuss the fine points of caulking mallets.

Evelyn demonstrating the 'spinning' of oakum, tarred hemp, used to caulk larger boats.

Walt and Evelyn work in unison to show how the larger seams on larger boat/ships were caulked with oakum. Evelyn holds the axelike horsing iron while Walt swings the beetle, a bigger, heavier mallet.

photos and captions copyright Thomas Armstrong
It was another exhilarating year at the WoodenBoat show.Six of the ten whaleboat project boats were on view, those built by The Apprenticeshop, which boat, so in the spirit of Lance Lee, was brought to Mystic by apprentices, rowing sailing and occasionally being towed, Beetle Boat Shop, Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway, Great Lakes Boat Building School, Independence Seaport Museum's Workshop on the Water and Rocking the Boat. Seeing so many of the whaleboats up close, that I'd only seen virtually before was a huge treat. I really can't fault any of the boats, they all exhibit a high degree of craftsmanship. Five of the six were in pristine condition, the exception being the Apprenticeshop's boat, which bore the signs of it's rite of passage, being rowed and sailed to the event. Patina, let's call it. It was nice to see some wear on the boat, and illuminating, as to how quickly it accrued. The originals were built with the expectation of lasting for a whaleship cruise, average three years, and then replaced.
Also compelling was a skills demonstration by Walter and Evelyn Ansel, respectively son and grandaughter of Willits Ansel, buider of several whaleboats at Mystic and author of 'The Whaleboat' an out of print Mystic Seaport publication which is the bible of whaleboat building and lore. It's around on Amazon, etc. and there are rumors of a reissue by Mystic.
Walt and Evelyn showed us caulking skills, both for small and large vessels, cotton and oakum. Fascinating and complex, and indeed an intersection of science and art, as are many traditional boatbuilding skills. I was transfixed, hadn't expected to be by such a mundane sounding topic. Suffice it to say, Mystic Seaport and other Maritime institutions are repositories of skill and knowledge that would otherwise be lost, and may be, in the not so distant future, called upon to reinvent our way of life. Let's support that. It's interesting to note that according to the Ansels, caulkers, in the past, were intenerent, moving from project to project, and much in demand. A very highly appreciated skill, ie: craftsmen. The Ansels also appear to me to be a modern day equivalent. Highly skilled and highly knowledgable, communicative and sharing. BTW, Evelyn will soon depart for the Vasa Museum in Stockholm on a year of research, on tools I believe, via a Fulbright.