Ways to Give

Inside IYRS Blog

Learn what it’s like to spend a day in the life of a student.

Jul 22

Written by: Tom
7/22/2009 11:44 PM 

There's not a lot of down time on the IYRS campus.  A group of 1st year students stick around during the summer and work on independent projects in Restoration hall, Coronet's restoration is underway, there are a number of restored wooden boats moored at the dock... then there are weddings, special events, the annual gala.  One of the good things about visiting our campus during the summer months is that the pace is relaxed and students have time to talk to folks who come by.  

One of the boats you'll see in the hall is a 15 1/2' Bahamian dinghy.  Greg is lofting the boat for its owner, a collector of these types of work boats, in preparation for restoration.

When looking over a boat like this, you're confronted with the obvious problems.

For example, the transom.  That's gonna need some attention. 

You'll also readily see that this boat had been fiberglassed at some point in its history.

This is often something that's done when a boat is getting tired and leaky.  Encasing your hull in plastic gives it a new lease on life, at least for a while.  The downside is that sooner or later water seeps in between the fiberglass and the wood, and stays trapped there, like a bowl of mold soup.  So, the treatment that helps in the short term also speeds up the complete demise of the boat's structure.  

In this particular case, however, Greg thinks that the fiberglass saved the boat.  Sometime after she was glassed, she was stored upside down in her owner's yard.  There she stayed for many years with that hard plastic shedding rain and allowing water to drain down through the porous wood on the underside.  

The signs all point to this being an Abaco workboat.  This particular dinghy was named Green Turtle, which happens to be the name of one of the cays in the Abacos cluster of islands in the Bahamas.  Her construction is typical of the Abacos workboats, and her materials also point to this being built in the Abacos.  

The frames are sawn (not steam bent) from a reddish wood named madeira.  In that part of the world, they call it "horseflesh wood" because, so I'm told, of it's resemblance to salted horse flesh.  Up until that conversation with Greg, I had no idea that one would have a reason to salt horse flesh, much less that the practice was so common that a wood would get its name from it.  

And all this time, I just thought that madeira looked like muscular arms...

The planking and spars are all made of Abaco pine.  This is a Bahamian version of longleaf yellow pine, an excellent boat building wood.  The construction is clearly workboaty... take the boom for instance:

The cleats are all simple attachments made of the same wood, the lines appear to be hemp or some other natural fiber.  Nothing is fancy, everything is practical.  

The mast is also made of this same wood

Note the knot over on the right.  You don't see that on a yacht (or on most boats, to be honest... knots are the weak links in the wood structure).

The knees and breasthook are all natural crooks of black mangrove.  

Mangrove is a swamp species and as you'd expect, it's highly rot resistant.  The trees have tough, twisty roots and limbs.  Perfect for getting the continuous grain you need in a tightly curved part like a knee or breasthook.  

Considering its age and fiberglassing, the boat is in pretty good shape.  

The bright paint is also typical of the Bahamian workboats.  

She has a two stroke engine (probably not original) that has been removed.  

She also has a notch in her transom for a long sculling oar.  

Always a good idea to have multiple sources of propulsion...

The sails that came with the boat are all hand made.  Greg imagines the builder's wife sitting on the porch working on the sails in the off-season, when there's a break from working in the garden and pineapple fields.    

Greg will be taking the lines off of this boat in order to guide her future restoration.  Drawing the boat on paper will show where she's become unfair over the years.  The folks who restore her can use these lines to tweak her back to what was probably her original shape.  

Of course, some things are a little obvious... like the cant of the keel for instance

He'll use large wooden frames to record information about her shape.  You can see one of them at the forward end of the boat.

This is set up to record the shape of the stem.  He'll use a similar frame positioned at intervals along the length of the boat to get cross-sections of the hull.

Eventually, the boat will be drawn full-size on the lofting floor.  We'll try to get some photos of this a little later.


2 comment(s) so far...

Re: An Abacos workboat at IYRS

I also have a Abaco dinghy that I plan on restoring. I think it is in a little better shape then the one your working on. See link below for photos. I plan on putting a 1906-1907 two cycle inboard back in the boat.


P.S....I no nothing about restoring a boat so this should be real interesting. I'm a machinist, work with metals.

By John C. Davis on   4/13/2010 4:22 PM

Re: An Abacos workboat at IYRS

Interesting to say the least! My one bit of advice to any machinist who gets into working with boats is this: remember that wood swells. Machinists are used to making beautiful, precise fits, and when you do that with dry wood, sometimes you end up with hatches that swell closed, and some parts that tear themselves apart when they expand. At the shop I work in, we had to keep reminding one machinist that worked on a boat we were restoring to build in more slack in the steering gear to anticipate corrosion build up on the gears. The gears worked like a swiss watch, but we knew that a season or 2 on the water and they'd start to bind up.

Best of luck, and we'll look forward to see your progress!


By Tom on   4/13/2010 4:35 PM

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