Sunday, June 20, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

The original Silent Maid is now in the shop. While the new version gads about the Northeast, showing off, the original will get what she needs to begin the next phase of her life. The 1924 Silent Maid contains the stories of 79 years of sailing. The last registration sticker on her bow is dated July, 2003. Over the years she has developed the patina of her many years. She contains a wealth of stories, some great some appalling. She is tired and showing her years but the stories are there and well worth saving..
Silent Maid's  designer, Francis Sweisguth, had an excellent eye for form. he pushed the limits on freeboard, cabin height and rig proportions while creating a very handsome boat. For whatever reason Silent Maid's original structure has suffered over time. Her builder, Morton Johnson of Bay Head, did an excellent job fitting her together. She has been altered and repaired repaired many times however. These are part of the story. She was built with steel fasteners and it is a source of amazement that she has lasted so long. That early economy may well prove to be her ultimate end but the shop crew will do what they can.
The original drawings exist and the lines have been recorded of the boat as she now is. The changes she has undergone have been documented in photographs and some have surfaced in stories told by earlier owners. The work will be an effort to preserve her just as she is, there will be no effort to restore, but there will be one to preserve.
The first step will be to remove all the paint from her hull. This will give an honest look at the condition of her planking and fasteners. Once this is done a plan will be formulated  regarding how the planking is fastened to the framing. The deterioration of the steel fasteners may slow now that the boat is under shelter but the oxidation will not stop after so many years of exposure to salt water. New fasteners of bronze will be put in to stabilize the planking. The fewest possible will be used, the planks need to stay on but will not be subject  to extreme stress. A cradle will be built to counter the effects of gravity and to absorb the stresses and strains of moving the boat. As we move through this phase of the work determinations will be made about what is to follow. Much of this will involve paint and varnish, the first line of defense on any wooden structure. None of this is original so protecting the wood will be the first concern.
So while the new Silent Maid continues her cruise we'll have an occasional look back at what is happening to preserve the original and maybe tell a few of those stories. 


1 comment:

  1. John, thanks for an illuminating summation of the preservation issues here. I'll follow the progress with interest and try to lend a hand, time permitting.