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Preview: Schooner BOWDOIN Gets a New Deck

June 9, 2016

When OCH visited the schooner BOWDOIN to see the progress of her new deck, a job which called for the precise joining of heavy timbers, we were blown away by the skills shown by Andros Kypragoras and his crew of talented shipwrights.

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– [Narrator] Big timber construction, once common along the coast, has become rare these days. Big timbers make for a rugged vessel, and time and time again, the heavily built Bowdoin has proven she can take it. In 1921, the 88 foot schooner Bowdoin was built to explore the waters, land, and people of the Arctic. And in her early career, she made 26 trips, doing just that. Now days, she’s training cadets at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and still makes periodic voyages to the far north. So when we heard about Bowdoin’s re-decking and retarping we stopped by the Lyman-Morse Yard in Camden to see for ourselves what was going on and to hear about it from Andros Kypragoras who’s in charge of the project. Andros, I snuck in here a couple times at lunch time and was blown away by the workmanship.

– [Androus] Well, thank you. It’s all in the crew.

– Yeah, well, we want to come and find out how you did it.

– Yep. _ So we came, I think, at an interesting time, because you’re here, where a lots takin’ place at the break of the day where the race fore-deck joins the aft deck.

– So the decking itself, it’s white pine that came out of Vermont. It’s a 2 3/4 inch square, which means that it’s a square piece of wood. And the nice thing about it being a square piece of wood is all you gotta do is turn it 90 degrees and you got a nice vertical grain.

– Yeah and you ran this through a four-sided planer to get the caulking bevel?

– The sawyer cut these 3 1/8 inch square blanks, which were then stickered and air dried for about a year or so, just over a year.

– In the rough?

– In the rough.

– Yeah.

– It was run through, basically, it’s a remanufacturing facility.

– So you told him to run it vertical grain?

– Yeah, yeah, I sent them a drawing. I sent them a drawing with our profile on it.

– That’s important.

– Yeah. They made some custom, some custom knobs for it and we ran all of this decking through there. And now, made it exactly 2 3/4 by 2 3/4. It’s 3/32 per side of taper, that goes down 2/3 of the piece. So that’s about one inch of wood-to-wood contact, and then about an inch and 3/4 of caulking seam. And then when you see it, when they’re butted up, you have about 3/16 caulking seam. We’ll do one strand of con, two stands of oak on top of it, and we’ll do a synthetic, a poly-sulfide, seam compound.

– I see. Tell us about this cut and why it’s like that.

– Well, one of the details on a straight laid deck, or actually on any deck is to have a knib the idea is that instead of this piece, you can see inside here that if it wasn’t cut off square this would be a long tapered piece which basically rots away easier.

– Yeah. Split up when you’re tryin to caulk it and all that stuff.

– Split up while you’re trying to caulk it. So the nib basically eliminates this long, thin tapered edge. And what’s unique about this boat is the fact that, normally, you’d have blocking where the nibs would land, and you would be able to fasten them to.

– Yeah.

– Instead of doing that, this has just a rabbit, this goes on about an inch. Then the underside of the decking in this particular, the nib would also be, would have the 1 3/4 of an inch removed and that would slide in on top of here.

– So that comes out flush on the top?

– Comes out flush on the top and on the bottom.

– What do you use, do you fasten that nib?

– Yeah, that’s, small screw, number 12.

– Number twelve? And when it gets back here, the other fastens like this?

– That’s correct. 3/8 by 5 inch spikes into the beams. Also you can see the pattern the nibs create along the covering board.

– Okay, and your stainless steel screws are in the nibs

– Yep.

– Up to there?

– Those have, I’m sorry, those haven’t been done yet.

– Yeah.

– These still need to be fastened.

– Yeah.

– It’s a good idea to stay one ahead, so we do two straights at a time. So before we lay the next two straights, we’ll cut two more nibs.

– This deck, covering board and assembly has to be pretty dry in order not to shrink after it’s caulked and leak, is that?

– Yeah, the air dried lumber is, it’s really nice that is has been air dried instead of kiln dried.

– So sapwood is the other thing that we want to avoid, cause it’s short-lived. How’d you do that?

– When you get the lumber from the sawyer, they’ll be knots, they’ll be sapwood in it, the idea being that you can high grade within the piece. Not every piece is twenty feet long.

– Yeah.

– You have some shorter pieces, so you try to manipulate your material in such a way that you eliminate as much as the waste as possible. But yeah, no sapwood, knots, and we’re trying to keep knots in the lower third of the decking. Up top, we’re trying to keep no knots. So far we’ve been doing pretty good. So, hopefully the pile holds out.

– You’re half done.

– Well I don’t know,

– more than half

– we got a ways to go,

– well, you got four decks.

– but the pieces get shorter as we go, so.

– The other thing I want to get into a little bit is the longitudinal strength at the sheer level.

– So right here we have the two beam shelves joining to each other. The upper one being for the fore deck, and the lower one being for the main deck. This is just a mess of fastenings in here, we’ve got bolts, through bolts coming up that join both of the shelves together. There’s also through bolts that go through each shelf into both futtocks on the stanchion and on the framehead. At each one of these stations there’s four bolts going through the framing and two bolts going through each one of these.

– So the idea is to keep it from sliding apart, the boat loses it’s sheer. I was really impressed with these chambers, not being done by a router.

– The guy just does them with a spokeshave. Even if you wanted to you couldn’t use a router on them. Because of, you know, where they are on the boat, there’s a lot of angle on them. Each one of these is a little bit different.

– Good to see that done. And these tenons are made, so, to match the mortises on the other side?

– Yeah, we still have to make the cap rail. The lumber’s still outside. Once we get the planking on, that’ll be the next thing we do is start making patterns of each one of these mortises as long as we can make them and lay that out.

– Yeah.

– And put those in the… The cap rail is also going to be oak and we’ll probably just run a lag in to the tops of these.

– And your rail caps must be faired already, is that right?

– This line is already a fair line. So…

– I notice you got some pencil lines here that…

– Yep.

– Or guess wherever it might be but the cut line is

– The cut line is, when that cap rail sit on there, that’s, that’s it.

– Yeah.

– This is the last piece of covering board on the port side. Each sheets stanchion is mortised through the covering board, which means that at every stanchion there’s a square hole cut out of the covering board, and the covering board is fit over the stanchions. These holes, that… It’s about a quarter of an inch gap, all the way around. Once this is fit and fastened, we’ll wedge all the way around here. We’ll have one wedge that goes with the fat side down on the inside up against the stanchion. And the second wedge with the skinny side down, that would tighten up as you drove it in. And you gotta be careful, cause your gonna actually split the wood out along here if you’re not careful. So, you wanna get it tight enough that it’s gonna be water tight, but you also don’t want to get it so tight that you end up splitting the covering board. Once a whole section has been dry fit, then we go through. We take it all apart. Everything gets painted with an oil based paint, quite liberally, and then everything gets driven in tight and trimmed off flush with the covering board.

– And this covering board will be fastened down into the oak sheerstrake?

– And then also we fasten in board into the deck beam.

– You put these on square face on the outside, and then this will get beveled off to the hull?

– Yeah. We cut it close to the shape of the hull and then the final fairing is done. Actually, once the bulwarks are on we’ll do the final fairing of everything and get everything dialed in.

– Yeah.

– Everything just sort of gets roughed in and so that we can caulk and keep moving on to other projects.

– And what’s going on here?

– Right here we’ve got a lot going on. We’ve got the main deck covering board, which…

– That’s the equivalent to this one.

– That’s the equivalent to this.

– But a different level.

– But a different level. And then we also have, this is hull planking, basically coming up lapping over the main deck covering board. And then we also have, as you can see back aft of the sheer the scupper’s strake, is the same thickness as the hull planking. So that will come over and create this half-lap joint here and butt into the covering board. Above this covering board the board planking steps in, and they’ll be a bullnose with a cove right under it that runs the full length of the boat.

– Yeah.

– And so that creates the line. It’s a little bit… Yeah, there’s a lot going on right here.

– These are nicely tapered, which I guess, follows what the original ones were?

– Yeah, it’s about an inch of taper. They go from about five to four at the top.

– Fat down here, because it’s part of the hull framing.

– That’s correct.

– And then thinner up here, so you can have a reasonable width rail cap.

– Yep, and there’s also a little bit of a flat spot actually coming up through the covering board here for where the wedges sit.

– I see.

– If you take em off, it’s a little bit of a funny shape when you’re looking at it. But right above this, about an inch above the covering board, they start to taper.

– I see.

– And back aft, actually, they’ve got a little bit of shape on the inside as well.

– What you see, when you’re on deck, when this is all said and done is a rail cap and these things that support it. Re-lashed in June 2016, with her decks complete, all she needs is some final touches before she heads to Castine, Maine, where her rig will be reinstalled, and she’ll return to service.


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