Preview: Schooner BOWDOIN Re-Topping: Some Intriguing Details

June 7, 2016

Avatar Maynard Bray


The photo above was taken shortly after BOWDOIN’s June relaunching, after a winter in Lyman-Morse’s shop being re-topped. The others that follow show details that intrigued me as I wandered around the project while the crew was at lunch. I hope you enjoy looking at them and that you come away with a deeper understanding of wooden ship repair.

A humidifier at work all winter under a skirt of plastic kept BOWDOIN’s hull planking from drying out in the heated shed.


The bulwarks, sheerstrakes, and several planks below them needed replacing, along with the entire deck and top timbers—all in the name of re-topping. Planking is oak; top timbers are locust.


White pine covering boards fit down over the top timbers and fasten to the sheer strakes and deck beams. Several deck beams (of oak) were renewed.


The covering boards are butted together and a white pine stopwater makes the joint watertight. Wedges, also of pine, do the same at each of the top timbers.


Scupper strakes run the length of the main deck in order to meet and match the sheer strakes of the raised foredeck. Above this level, the bulwark planking is thinner—all the way up to the railcap.


This is the so-called breakbeam where the main deck and the raised foredeck meet. It is rabbeted, to form a landing for the fore deck planking, while the planking of the main deck, laid earlier, is sandwiched between this timber and the lower breakbeam that lies directly under it.


The foremast partner, like the upper breakbeam (left), is new. But the lodging knees that brace it are being reused.


This shows how the covering board gets notched to make a landing for the nib ends of the decking.


BOWDOIN’s deck is laid before any cabins are landed, so the portions of the seams that the cabins cover (which become inaccessible for subsequent caulking) are kept watertight by the pine wedges shown here. Cotton followed by oakum followed by black seam compound keeps the rest of the deck watertight.


One of the scarfs where two sections of rail cap join. Small areas of the edges have been left square for ease of clamping, and for fairing the two rail cap sections together after they’re fastened to each other.


Looking aft, with the white pine decking partly laid and the rail caps partly installed.

Schooner BOWDOIN

Looking forward shortly after BOWDOIN’s June 6th re-launching—and after sanding has cleaned up the seam compound overspread. Very evident here are the nibbed ends of the deck planks, the rabbeted upper breakbeam, and raised foredeck.


This shows how the thinner bulwark planking creates a recessed waist for the vessel, and how the stout rail cap creates the handsome sheerline that invites the eye. The rectangular cutouts are scuppers that drain the deck of any water that comes aboard. The waist (foreground) has been bored and trimmed for a chock.


Carved scrolls surround the hawsepipes. A lovely carved-in name (BOWDOIN) will soon follow.

Bowdoin wirth State of Maine

The schooner BOWDOIN in 2011 at her Castine homeport where she berths next to Maine Maritime Academy’s big training vessel STATE OF MAINE.


Back in 1980, soon after BOWDOIN was hauled out at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath and before John Nugent tore out and replaced any of her original structure, I measured the deck and hull framing and drew this construction plan. For OCH members interested in how the vessel was built, here’s an opportunity. (The original construction drawings by desiner William H. Hand have never surfaced, but the arrangement plan did and is included here as excerpted from the

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