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.

Preparing Planks for the Transom

Ernestina-Morrisssey’s new transom is being fitted to the frames.

The topmost planking on the transom is cut to fit together above the water line.

Later the same day the last piece of the puzzle is fit and fastened. Tomorrow the first full plank will be attached.

The transom has an extreme curve and some of the planks must be steamed and bent to a form to set the needed curve of the planks.  Some members of the crew are in the workshed working on the plank for the next day.

This form will be used to bend the planks to fit the transom frame. Notice the steel I-beams that support the frame and will give a strong structure to fasten the clamps to.

The crew hurries the 3 inch thick oak plank to the form.

The process starts with a chain and a lenth of angle iron so the chain will not scar the edges of the plank. This will hold the end of the plank to the form.

Manpower starts forcing the plank to the form as Alessandro Lopes film the action for the Sails over Ice and Seas documentary.

A hydraulic jack is used to force the plank to the curve of the form as clamps are added to hold it down.

The jack tightens the chain that is looped from the U-channel on the jack to the I-beam.

More clamps are added as the plank gets closer to the form.

At last the clamps get a final tightening and the plank is fit to the form where it will stay overnight until the crew is ready to fasten it to the transom.

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

If you would like to help just click the yellow DONATE button at the right.


Fair Winds and Congratulations, Melissa DeValles

Melissa DeValles has resigned from the Board Of Directors of SEMA and has been sworn in as a member of the Schooner Ernestina Commission.

Melissa on right, with two MMA cadets at a Ernestina Work Day in the spring of 2012.

Melissa brings great experience to the Commission.  In addition to her time on the SEMA board, she has served as deckhand and engineer on Ernestina and is a Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) grad.  She is well prepared to help as Ernestina-Morrissey transitions to her exciting future.

Join the Ernestina-Morrissey Whiskey Plank Club!!!

The Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association cordially invites one and all to become a part of the schooner’s history when your name is added to the whiskey plank, which will be laid in late July!  A whiskey plank is the last plank to be put in place to finish construction of a vessel’s framing and planking.  For us, this is a significant milestone in Ernestina-Morrissey’s hull restoration. For a minimum donation of $100, a Whiskey Plank Club Member will have their name (or a name of their choice) inscribed on the Ernestina-Morrissey’s whiskey plank and will also receive a commemorative photo! Make your donation of $100 (or more!) online through the SEMA PayPal account* or you can mail us a check to SEMA, P.O. Box 2995, New Bedford, MA, 02741.  Let us know what name you want inscribed.  Funds must be received by July 25.

Four planks a day are going on to the frames. The last plank the shutter or whiskey plank will go on at the end of July.

Traditionally the laying of the whiskey plank is marked by a celebration at the shipyard.  To highlight the vessel’s unique history; Cape Ann rum, Canadian whiskey, Cape Verdean grogue and Buzzards Bay beer will all be used to celebrate her whiskey plank!  SEMA will publish photos of the ceremony, as well as a complete thank you list of all Ernestina-Morrissey Whiskey Plank Club Members! Don’t miss this unique opportunity to have a lasting impact on the completion of schooner’s hull, and literally be inscribed in her history!  Please make your contribution today and join the Ernestina-Morrissey Whiskey Plank Club! *Be sure to let us know, in the “Add special instructions to the seller” box, what name you want inscribed!



Thank You to our Sponsors!

Celebrating all the stories of Ernestina-Morrissey‘s Amazing History!

Ryan and Wood Distilleries

The Bisca Tournament Club in New Bedford

Buzzards Bay Brewing

Sails Over Ice and Seas

Christian Lopes, at far right, is filming the crew installing the next plank.

Rick Lopes has been collecting images and interviews of Ernestina-Morrissey‘s history for over thirty years. His plan to produce a documentary called “Sails Over Ice and Seas: The Life and Times of Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey” is falling into place with “the generous support from several institutions and individuals, particularly Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest” is described in the latest issue of Sea History magazine.  (page 14).  A teaser can be viewed HERE.

Rick has been joined by his sons, Alessandro and Christian, as the recording is completed and editing begins.

“The documentary is still a work in progress and Rick encourages anyone who has photographs, archival film, or a personal connection to the schooner to contact either NMHS or Voyage Digital Media. ” (Voyage Digital MediaNational Maritime History Society)

Christian Lopes

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.

If you would like to help just click the yellow DONATE button at the right.

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.

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