Riveted lap strake planking, Jay Smith Boat Builder video.
Riveted lap strake planking, Jay Smith Boat Builder video.

Cold spring mornings, Stonington, Maine,
Pungent smells across the marine railway,
Boats hauled, repaired and refitted, hulls
Barnacle-scraped and painted, including
Trinity, Captain Wright’s two-mast sailing
Skiff, her masts pulled, clinker-built hull
Repaired, working lobster traps, small
Islands off Isle au Haut, year 1910.

Glowing coals heated a painter’s bucket,
Bubbling creosote and motor oil, Wright
Stirred the murky mixture. Removed from
Sparking fire, he added kerosene, his brew
For treating twenty-five foot mast on his
Sailing skiff. Slow brush strokes, he painted
Tapered spars, reeking solvent absorbed
Deep within, allowed days to sun dry.

Blacksmith shop, Saint John Harbour, New Brunswick, Canada, circa 1890s, Wikipedia photo.
Blacksmith shop, Saint John Harbour, New Brunswick, Canada, circa 1890s, Wikipedia photo.

No holes drilled in masts, Capt. Wright’s
Fittings were black-iron collars bolted round
Tapered wood. Blacksmith heated strap iron,
Glowing hot, hammered into shape, two semi-
Circles omega-bent, drilled where bolted to
Each other. Blocks attached, mast stepped
And secured, new rigging, lines ran aloft,
Sail hoops and canvas raised and lowered.

Next, Captain Wright repaired the lapstrake
Hull, overlapping cedar boards secured with
Copper rivets. Hauled out for winter, Trinity’s
Seams were open, she’d leak like an old oyster
Basket. She needed to soak, bailed every day,
Unless he tightened her joints and sealed
Wood seams by making fast copper rivets
Securing clinkered boards.

One person inside the hull, the other outside,
Hammer tapping rivets tighter. Slow process
With hand-finished boards, providing strength,
Watertight when returned to heaving brine.
Next, Captain Wright heated lard until like
Liquid glue, added linseed oil, and painted
Each wood joint. Allowed to dry, Trinity
Was wave-worthy for Gulf of Maine.

Postcard, circa 1910, Mason Brothers and Co., Boston, MA, Wikimedia photo.
Postcard, circa 1910, Mason Brothers and Co., Boston, MA, Wikimedia photo.

Such were boat repairs since days Vikings built
Lapstrake longships, exploring Maine rocky
Shorelines, materials, fasteners, and adhesives
Changed, techniques still the same, lovely lines,
Strong and stable on open ocean. Captain Wright
And his crew took to Maine islands, dropping
Lobster traps, heady days, livelihood for strong-
Willed Mainers, both able men and women.

For more on lapstrake boat construction, see this Jay
Smith boat building video and this link to Danenberg
Boatworks. Inadvertent errors in techniques described
are my own. 

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