SCHOONER ERNESTINA, Ex. Effie M.Morrissey, was built in 1894 at the James and Tarr Shipyard for the Gloucester fishing fleet. Under Captain Bob Bartlett she sailed to within 600 miles of the North Pole, and later brought immigrants to the U.S. under the power of sail. Returned to the US in 1982 as a gift from the newly independent Cape Verdean people, she sailed as an educator until 2005.

Deck Beams Going In!

The crew at the Bristol Marine Shipyard in Boothby Harbor has made great progress since our last post in April!  The planking continues, up from the keel and down from the sheer.  The last plank of the  (shutter) strake, called the whiskey plank, will finish the planking and be cause for celebration!

Working on the topsides planking. The timbers rising above the sheer are the bulwarks. Photo Credit Harold Burnham

The cap on the transom is coming together well.

Shaping the port transom cap. Photo Credit Harold Burnham

Starboard side of transom Photo Credit Harold Burnham

The deck beams run athwartships, from port side to starboard.

Athwartships deck beams and framing, looking from the rudderpost forward. Photo Credit Harold Burnham

Preparing a frame that will fit between two deck beams Photo Credit Harold Burnham

The framing is notched into the beam Photo Credit Harold Burnham

The beams and framing must allow for the hatches, deck “furniture” and cabin trunks.

The red line surrounds the frame left open for the aft cabin trunk. The blue line surrounds the rudder post with the passage for the steering linkage from the steering gear to the rudder. Photo Credit Harold Burnham

The crew is not ready to start laying the deck, but in the work shop the crew continue to prepare the covering boards, the outermost deck plank on each side, which fit over the stanchions and assure, when well caulked, that water washing off the deck cannot leak into the hull.

Preparing covering boards. Photo Credit Harold Burnham

By late June some of the covering boards are in place,

You can easily access all our posts about this project HERE.

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Planking Has Started

The hull of a ship like Ernestina-Morrissey is curved from stem to stern and from keel to bulwarks.  As a result every plank has to be shaped to fit with its mates to form those curves. The process starts with 3 inch oak timbers.

These photos were taken on March 26, 2018.

A spiling batten is used to scribe the line that will guide the cut to shape the plank.

Lines are scribed on the stock for the correct shape.

Once the stock is marked a circular saw is used to cut along the curved line to shape the plank.

The plank is then planed to three inches as you can see in this video.  And here David Short shapes the caulking bevel.

The planks are then brought to the railway and readied to be steamed.

The steam bag is a more portable modern answer to a steam box. The planks must be steamed so they will be flexible enough to bend to fit tightly to the frames.

Bristol Marine has shared photos with us and also videos on their Facebook page.  If you have access to Facebook check out:

Drone’s eye view

40 foot sheer plank going in (to railway)

sheer plank coming out of steam bag

Sheer plank going on

The thickness of  planks next to the keel is 5 inches midships and is tapered to the stem and stern as you can see in the next sequence of photos.  Also notice the fastenings and check our post on fastenings.

3 1/8 thick near the stem

5" thick at midships as noted on plank

Note the curve (bend) in the starboard garboard strake, looking aft. "Strake" is a single strip of planking running longitudinally from the stem to the transom. On Ernestina-Morrissey it takes more than one plank to complete a strake. A smaller boat may have a single plank making up a strake,

Port garboard strake and the first broad strake above it, looking forward.

Port sheer strake looking aft.

Preparations for Aft Deck

Ernestina-Morrissey’s fore deck was renewed in 2008-’09.  The aft deck is a step up from the fore deck as the curve of the schooner’s sheer continues to the transom. A beam forms the step at the break in the deck.

For scale, this photo from 2002, shows the sampling from an otter trawl at the break in the deck.

From 2014, you can see the line of scuppers along the deck at the left, the freeing port at the break in the deck and the scuppers continuing along the aft deck.

The new beam, with a carved bull-nose, is ready to be fitted into place.

You can see where the deck will fit into the beam when it is laid.

The aft edge of the fore deck is ready for the new beam.

Meanwhile, in the work shed, the covering boards, the outermost deck plank on each side, are being prepared. They will be fit over the bulwarks flush with the rest of the deck.

Thank You, Licy!

DoCanto inside the hull of the Ernestina-Morrissey, Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, October 2017

Licy DoCanto‘s time as a member and chairperson of the Schooner Ernestina Commission has been marked with immense positive changes for Ernestina-Morrissey.  We are sorry to receive news that he is leaving the Commission. In a letter emailed to the Commission, announcing his stepping down as Commission chairperson and Commission member, Licy wrote: ”It has been an honor and privilege as well as an incredible experience both personally and professionally to serve these last five years on the Commission on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth. I am very proud of the work of the Commission and the important partnership it enjoys today with the governor and the administration, the legislature, as well as with the private sector and community at large, in support of the Schooner. I am especially proud of the steps we have taken over the last year to strengthen awareness of and engagement with her at the highest levels of government in Massachusetts, in Boston and in Cabo Verde.

I am particularly proud also of the steps we have taken to help increase awareness of her in the media and press, and by default, within communities across the Commonwealth. In addition, I especially pleased by the creation of the Commission fellowship opportunity and the work of the Commission fellows, as well as with the important site visits to Mass Maritime Academy and Boothbay Harbor Maine, achieving full Commission membership for the first time in over ten years, and the important efforts to bring us closer to a draft MOU/MOA among DCR, SEC, and MMA.

This unique state asset and official state ship represents the very best of what Massachusetts stands for…diversity, inclusiveness and increased opportunity for all.  And I wish you all well and Godspeed in your continued efforts in support of her successful future.

Thank you.



In 1894 Effie M. Morrissey was fastened with trunnels and iron. Iron and wood served again when Ernestina was prepared for her return to Massachusetts in 1982.

The center of this piece of African hardwood has been degraded by a rusting iron fastening but the peg carved of the same wood is still sound.

The current rehabilitation of Ernestina-Morrissey is using the traditional locust trunnels and corrosion resistant silicon-bronze fastenings.  In previous posts we have described the use of trunnels as the frame came together.

Now that the sheer-strake and bullwarks are in place and the tops of the double-sawn frames have been cut to level, some cuts have exposed the trunnels used to fasten the futtocks together.

trunnel remnants in futtock

trunnel remnants in futtock

The hull frame is nearly done and drilling holes and bolting the sheer-shelf to the frame is one of the last steps.

Dave gives the scale of the timbers of the frames, bulwarks and the substantial horizontal sheer-shelf which provides stability to the hull and will support the aft deck beams. And is a handy shelf for the crew as they work.

Here's a different perspective of the port sheer-shelf.

Meanwhile Chris drills a very long hole through the sheer-shelf and frame on the starboard side.

The crew developed this ingenious jig to guide the drill bit true.

It is important that the hole be straight to accept the silicon-bronze rod and to be centered to the end through the frame and sheer-strake so that the bolt holding the structure together will be secure.  This short video shows how long the bit is and how the jig is adjusted.

Trunnels for fastening the 3 inch planking, note the slit in the right end which accepts a wedge to tighten the trunnel in the hole.

On the left you can see one wedged trunnel and two silicon-bronze screws, on the right two more screws and two wedged trunnels.

Project Manager David Short explained that trunnels will be used to fasten the planks to all the frames as this photo shows. The screws will be used at the butts and the setts.

Silicon-bronze screw for planking.

Tapered drill bit cuts tapered screw holes

As Julius said this summer, “We are getting a superior ship” thanks to the shipwrights at Bristol Marine’s Shipyard in Boothbay Harbor.

Old Tech-New Tech

I was struck, on a recent trip to the shipyard, by the juxtaposition of “the old way” and the modern tools both in use by the shipwrights working on Ernestina-Morrissey. One example is the techniques used for holding the planks tight while they are fit and fastened to the frames.  Although there are no news reels from 1894, The Shipbuilders of Essex, a film probably produced in the 1930′s, can give you a flavor of the “old way”

The aft plank of the broad strake is fastened to the frames. The plank has to be held tightly in place until the screws and trunnels are in place. These screw clamps and wedges are "old tech"

But the clamps aren't the only way to do the job, just next to David's elbow you can see a metal pipe. David, an example of the younger generation learning this ancient craft, has been working on the rehabilitation of Ernestina-Morrissey since the project started, impressive on any shipwright's resume!

The "pipe" is a hydraulic shaft (ram) braced against a cleat on the work floor.

This hydraulic hand pump applies pressure to the shaft to hold the plank tight to the frames.

The plank must also fit tightly against the stern post.

Hydraulics are again called into service along with classic screw clamps and wedges at the butt end to insure the plank is tight to the stern post. Old and new working together.

Screw clamps and hydraulic hand pumps, shipwright technology evolving over the past 124 years getting the job done for Ernestina-Morrissey.

Plank Progress

Three weeks age we posted photos from Bristol Marine showing the first plank of the starboard garboard strake going in.  Here’s the final plank:

Shipwright David-Short, project manager, says The team wrestles a 5x12x34 garboard plan into place Photo Credit: Bristol Marine

David Short shares his thoughts about the Ernestina-Morrissey project in this teaser from Rick Lopes’ Documentary Series: “Sails Over Ice and Seas – The Life and Times of the Ernestina-Morrissey”.  Rick has amassed some amazing footage over the years.  We are excited to see the final project!

Once this garboard strake was in the shear strake was next.

Shear plank going in, all trunnel fastened. Looking aft. Photo Credit: Bristol Marine

shear plank looking forward, Photo Credit: Bristol Marine

aft shear plank Photo Credit: Bristol Marine

Bristol Marine posted videos of this process on their Facebook page.

Stern plank coming out of the steam bag.

Fitting last Shear plank

Fairing bow

Meanwhile in the workshop:

shaping the Cap Rail Mock-up Photo Credit: Bristol Marine

The Flags of Ernestina-Morrissey

We celebrated Ernestina-Morrissey‘s 124th birthday in February at New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.  “One Ship – Many Lives!”

Why so many flags?  The United States has added six states since Ernestina-Morrissey was launched.

Launched in 1894, Effie M. Morrissey started her fishing career.

1894 - 44 states

1896 - 45 states

1906 Digby Nova Scotia owners

1907 - 46 states

1912 - 48 states

In 1914 The Morrissey was bought by Newfoundlander Harold Bartlett.

1914 - Newfoundland owner - British flag

Dominion of Canada

Dominion of Newfoundland

By 1926 Captain Bob Bartlett had bought the Morrissey from his cousin and was sailing her as an Arctic exploration vessel from New York.  She carried the flags of many scientific institutions.

1926 - 48 states

National Geographic Society

The Explorer's Club

After Bartlett’s death she was bought by Captain Henrique Mendes and sailed as her as Cape Verde (then a Portuguese colony) packet, renamed Ernestina.

1948 - Cape Verde - Colony of Portugal

1975 - The independent Republic of Cape Verde

In 1982 the Ernestina was returned to Massachusetts as a gift to the people of the United States from the people of Cape Verde with a home port of New Bedford..

1982 - 50 states

1982 - Commonwealth of Massachusetts

1992 - City of New Bedford – Home Port

From 1982-2014 Ernestina ex Effie M. Morrissey served as an educator and ambassador.  In 2014, renamed Ernestina-Morrissey, and supported by a public-private partnership, the vessel was delivered to Boothbay Harbor Shipyard to be rehabilitated to prepare her for her future service to the Commonwealth and the world.

First Plank Is In!

First garboard plank, Photo Credit: Bristol Marine

The first new plank is in place on Ernestina-Morrissey’s frame.  The planks closest to the keel make up the garboard strake.  When the the keel was put in place the top was beveled, as you can see below, to receive the garboard.   The garboard strake will be 5 inches thick at the mid-ship frames and tapered to 3 inches thick toward the stern post.  The first broad strake (the next planks above the garboard strake) will be tapered until the planks are all 3 inches thick and the rest of the planking will be 3 inches thick.  The Danish oak. purchased in 2015 is being used for the planks.

This photo from 2016 shows is the first frame that rests directly on the keel. The cant frames are aft of it rising along the stern structure. You can see the bevel in the keel.

Another view looking forward showing the first plank in place at the stern. photo credit Bristol Marine

New Year in the Shipyard

There is more than the work on Ernestina-Morrissey that is new in Boothbay Harbor as 2018 begins.  Andy Tyska, president of Rhode Island-based Bristol Marine, has announced the acquisition of Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, now called “The Shipyard in Boothbay Harbor”.  Tyska said “… I know that Eric (Graves, vice-president) together with the yard’s talented shipwrights and skilled workers, will build on … past success and effect improvements ….”

Bristol Marine has posted a great video on their Facebook Page taken about a month after the photos below.  You can see many more stanchions are in.

SEMA director Captain Willi Bank visited the yard in early January and sent along these photos that show the sheer restored and other details and progress of the Phase 1 work.

From the port quarter looking toward the bow you can see Ernestina-Morrissey will have her historic sheer back.

Sheer (line) is a term to describe the curve upward toward the bow and stern of a vessel's main deck. You can see in this photo of Ernestina-Morrissey in the Canal on the way to BHS in April 2015 how flat the line of her stern is. With the reconstructed stern, the boat will again have the traditional sheer of an 1894 Essex schooner.

Here's what Effie M. Morrissey looked like just before she headed out for her first trip to the Banks, 6 weeks after she was launched. You can compare this with the photo above. The bow's sheer was restored during the 2008-09 work.

You can see the condition of her stern when they started work in 2015  here.

On the far right of the first photo above you can see some of the transom framing.  The next photo is from the starboard side of the transom looking forward.

The gray vertical timbers on the center-left are the rudder and stern post. Running along the inside of the frames from the transom forward is the sheer shelf installed above the sheer clamp on the port and starboard sides.

The foredeck provides a different view of the sheer clamps looking aft.

Besides the sheer clamps along the top of the frame you can see the stringers which add stability to the frame. There is a lot of temporary structure here, including the staging, the horizontal supports, and the plywood "sole" over the floor timbers.

A look from midships gives another perspective.

Looking to the port side, the deck beam on the right is at the break in the deck. The top-timbers or stanchions which will support the bulwarks are going in between the frame ends, fastened to the sheer clamp. Again, you can see the stringers. You can also see the bronze bolts which hold the sheer shelf structure together.

Tom is working on the starboard side forward.

As you can see the stanchions are trunnel fastened. The holes in the frames, which will be bunged, are where the bronze bolts hold the frames to the sheer clamp. The trunnels, now proud. will be chiseled level with the surface of the stanchion.

Take a close look at the laminated keelson. The bronze nuts are weathering in the damp, frosty weather. These nuts top the the bronze rod keelbolts, which in this case go from the top of the keelson down through the "hockey stick" ends of the two overlapping futtocks then through the oak keel timber and depending on the position, the lead ballast-keel. On the left and right, on top of the keelson you can see a floor timber topped by temporary plywood. Here the keelbolts go through the floor timbers as well as the rest of the structures. There are two keelbolts for each frame one through each futtock.

Follow this link to This photo from 2016 showing the “hockey stick” ends of the two overlapping futtocks.

Here you can see the oak keel with the lead ballast-keel inserted for part of its length.

Forward, under the foredeck, these large timbers bolted on either side of the keelson are bolsters for the foremast step.

People ask “Is there any old wood left?” The photo below shows the African hardwood stem, installed in Cape Verde, expertly scarfed with new oak by BHS shipwrights. I think it’s beautiful and represents the ongoing evolution of Ernestina-Morrissey“The Phoenix of the Seas”

And finally, here is her original registration number assigned in 1894 when Ernestina-Morrissey was launched from Essex, Massachusetts to fish for the J.F. Wonson and Co.

Although the vessel was under different registries during her many lives, Julius Britto worked with Representative Gerry Studds to authenticate her Essex Massachusetts heritage and with an Act of Congress the original registration number was restored to the then Ernestina in 1982.


You can review all the posts about the Rehabilitation Project HERE.


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