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.

Cutting Futtocks from Live Oak

Ross Branch, one of the shipwrights working on the Ernestina-Morrissey project at Boothbay Harbor Shipyard has developed an ingenious way (Patent Pending) to use a special chain saw to cut the live oak futtocks for the ship. Notice the guide attached to the chain saw blade.

A track is made from the patterns, incorporating the angles from the ship's plans for the chain saw to follow . photo credit Ross Craft Branch

A piece of live oak is chosen that can accommodate the curve of the futtock to be cut.  The wood is lifted onto saw horses and the pattern is traced onto the wood with the notes for the angle of the cut.  Wedges with the correct angle hold the track in place.  It is worth noting that live oak has a density of 90 pounds/cubic foot when it is green (63 pounds/cubic foot dry).  Fork lifts are used to move the timbers.

The cut is made following the angled track. photo credit Ross Craft Branch

You can see how closely the angled chain saw cut matched the pattern. photo credit Ross Craft Branch

Once the curve it doesn’t need much planing to smooth it off.  VIDEO

Two futtocks cut from the same piece of live oak. photo credit Ross Craft Branch

This technique uses less manpower and is less wasteful than using the ship saw with the heavy live oak. photo credit Ross Craft Branch

Read more from the Boothbay Register.

Futtocks and Frames Beginning to Take Shape

The framing of a ship the size of Ernestina-Morrissey cannot be cut from a single piece of wood so futtocks are cut and paired to form the frames as shown in this schematic.  Care is taken to make sure that where the butts of the individual futtocks meet there is a sufficient separation from the joint in the sister futtock in the same frame.

Futtocks and frames

The process starts at the lofting table and patterns are made for each futtock.

full size patterns made during the lofting process

Some of the pieces have very complex shapes especially in the bow and stern where the curve of the hull changes quickly over a short distance.

You can see how complex the shape of a single frame can be.

Live oak has been purchased from Georgia.  This wood makes good curved structures because of branching growth pattern and complex grain.  It is very hard and heavy and difficult to work with.

The curved branching pattern is best for cutting curved structural pieces.

Live oak stock and futtock

Ross explains to Fred the process using the chain saw to cut the futtocks.

Once the futtock is cut is is faired with a power planer

Lining Up the Keel

The pieces of keel have been rolled into place and the top is being fit into place.  The four 15,000 pound lead pieces will be jacked up to be joined with the wood along with the scarfed wood keel end timbers. Finally a worm shoe will be added along the length of the new keel.

The forward part of the keel has already been fitted to the forefoot. Some of the futtocks you can see here are African hardwood from the repairs done in Cape Verde.

Braces hold the keel in position as the keel is fit to the structure of the ship. You can see the grey painted lead section resting on supports ready to be jacked into place.

The keel is too long to be able to use one length of wood so the shipwrights need to join the timbers. David is putting the final touches on this scarf in the Danish oak. The rabbet in the top of the timber is shaped to meet the five inch garboard.

David and Ross working to bring the top keel timber up to alignment using a come-along. You can see the oak timber which is the aft section of the keel already in place ready to be jacked up. The forward end of this timber will be scarfed into the lead.

Here’s another look at the plans.

Plans for external ballast in keel.

Stern Structure Taking Shape

Ernestina-Morrissey‘s stern needed to be entirely rebuilt, as you could tell from the photos posted previously.  While the new keel is being moved into place the shipwrights are working on the timbers that will provide the frame for the stern.  Here is a photo to use as a frame of reference for the new structures that are being shaped.

The workers here were removing the rudder in July, 2015. The rudder is at the right on the fork lift. You can see the rudder stock going up into the passage in the rudder post which supports the rudder. In the space to the left of the rudder post you can see the three blades of the propeller and the stern post running up from the keel into the hull.

Here are the new timbers of Danish oak to compare.

Here is the new structure, new stern post on left, rudder post on right. The diagonal is called the forward horn timber. The frames and planking will be attached to it. The structure above the horn timber will be inside the hull. At the left, lined up with the horn timber, you can see the passage that the rudder stock will pass through. photo credit - Harold Burnham

You can see how massive the timbers are.

stern timbers - Backbone, photo credit Ross Branch This photo was taken before the horn timber was fit, but you can see the deadwood forward of the stern post.

backbone with forward horn timber - dropping in new horn timber - photo credit Ross Branch

All the pieces were dry fit in the workshop.  Below is the transom structure.  The “outboard” side of the transom is up in this photo, the curved pieces frame the bottom of the transom.  The aft horn timber extends from the bottom of the transom toward the doorway. The cheeks make it look like a clothespin.  The open part will be fit to the rudder and stern posts.

Transom frame with tail feather and horn timber - photo credit Ross Branch (640x360)

The stern structure will be erected as soon as the keel is ready.

The transom framing has been dry fit and painted.

Stern structure ready to be erected when the keel is ready. Mortises and tenons are cut. The rudder post is on the right, showing the top of the passage for the rudder stock.

Rudder post on the left, with the tenon that will fit into the mortise in the keel. The passage for the rudder stock will be inside the hull. The curve is shaped in the rudder post to accommodate the turning of the rudder.

Getting the New Keel Ready

In the latest set of photos from the shipyard you can see how the lead ballast will fit into the new keel.

Capt. Dave Thompson standing next to the aft end of the new keel for scale. The grey part is the four sections of lead ballast. The ends of the keel will be faired into the hull. photo credit Harold Burnham

Looking toward the forward section of the keel, each of the four sections of lead ballast weighs 15,000 pounds. photo credit Harold Burnham

Shipwright Rob Stevens is drilling holes for the alignment bolts. photo credit Harold Burnham

The Danish oak and lead sections are scarfed together. The top of the keel is rabbeted to receive a 5 inch garboard along most of its length. photo credit Harold Burnham

The shipyard crew is constructing a ramp system to bring the keel in place under the ship. photo credit Harold Burnham

The ramp is well supported to be able to carry the 15,000 pound sections of lead ballast. photo credit Harold Burnham

This is looking forward and shows where the 1970's pine keel from Cape Verde was removed and the structure that has been readied to receive the new keel with the ramp in place below. photo credit Harold Burnham

The Rebirth of the Ernestina-Morrissey

Ernestina-Morrissey will be featured in the April 7 lecture of the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s 2016 Sailors’ Series “A Century of Design & Invention”.

Chester Brigham, author of  ”Phoenix of the Seas” will recount the journeys and travails of the Ernestina-Morrissey, State Ship of Massachusetts. The schooner, repeatedly written off as doomed, is now undergoing a hull rehabilitation at the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard in Maine, phase 1 of a complete restoration.

Master Shipwright David Short, Project Manager for Boothbay Harbor Shipyard and Captain Harold Burnham, DCR’s Owner’s Representative, will provide insights into the restoration project ongoing in Maine.

Copies of “Phoenix of the Seas” will be available for purchase.

This is a ticketed event.

Lecture Registration: Single Lecture: Whaling Museum Members $15 / Non-Members $20

For tickets:  Order Online or call 508-997-0046 ext. 100.


Each lecture starts at 7:00 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater with a pre-lecture reception at 6:00 p.m. in the Jacobs Family Gallery.

If you cannot attend you can order your copy of “Phoenix of the Seas” online.

What’s Old is New Again

The lead ballast removed from Ernestina-Morrissey last summer has returned to Boothbay Harbor Shipyard.

As the lead was removed from the bilges it was stacked on pallets.

Lead pigs removed from the bilges of Ernestina-Morrissey. photo credit Harold Burnham

The plans for the present rehabilitation include a keel with external ballast.

Plans for keel with external ballast

The wood keel on the ship is being removed.  Judging from the type of wood, identified as pine from Portugal, the keel was replaced during the reconstruction in Cape Verde.  The wooden parts of the new keel will be made of the Danish oak now curing in the sheds of the shipyard.

Download an enlarged drawing.

Download January 26, 2016 Construction Plan.

Pine keel, likely from the Cape Verde rebuild. photo credit Harold Burnham

The pallets of lead were delivered to the foundry where the lead was recast. The external ballast sections were delivered to the shipyard recently.

The sections of external ballast for the keel have been delivered from the foundry. photo credit Harold Burnham

It is exciting to know that the dismantling of the ship is well underway and the restoration is beginning!  Check back often for the latest news!

New Year in Boothbay Harbor

As the New Year begins, the dismantling of Ernestina-Morrissey continues but in the sheds the new construction begins!

Silk removing the ceiling, what remains of the engine room bulkhead is on the right. credit H.Burnham

Here is a photo from November to compare. The “ceiling” is the planking that covers the frames on the inside of the ship.  The ceiling is still in place in the photo below. You can see the exhaust pipe overhead and the bulkhead that is nearly gone in the more recent photo.  You can also see the hull aft to the transom encompassing the stern post, aft cabin and lazerette, also gone in the photo above.

Engine room looking aft, the only equipment left is the exhaust pipes and part of the bulkhead to the aft cabin

Pine keel, (from the stern) likely from the Cape Verde rebuild credit H.Burnham

Rudder box and rudder post credit H.Burnham

Ross cutting the rabbet into the sternpost credit H.Burnham

Ross working on the sternpost. Note the rabbet cut and tenon on the bottom. credit H.Burnham

As 2016 begins it is exciting to see work on the new structures for a SAILING Ernestina-Morrissey. Many thanks to the Schooner Ernestina Commission, Massachusetts’ Department of Conservation and Recreation, DCR representative Capt. Harold Burnham and Boothbay Harbor Shipyard.

DOCK-U-MENTARIES presents Captains Courageous

Join us Friday, January 15 for the screening of this award winning movie!

Jan 15 2016 | 07:00 pm

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park Visitors’ Center
Corson Maritime Learning Center 33 William St.
New Bedford, MA

Don’t miss this opportunity to see fishing schooners like Ernestina-Morrissey, then Effie M. Morrrissey, in sailing footage filmed of the Gloucester fleet in 1937.  You will see some of her Essex sisters but not Ernestina-Morrissey. (In 1937 the Morrissey was in the Arctic on the “Bartlett Northwest Greenland Expedition” under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution and the Chicago Zoological Society.)  The deck scenes and those below in the aft cabin and fo’c’s’le will look very familiar if you have sailed aboard the Ernestina-Morrissey. The hard life of the dorymen of Gloucester is portrayed as you would expect in this 1937 Hollywood movie.  Join us Friday, January 15 for the screening of this award winning movie!

Based on a story by Rudyard Kipling, this classic film from 1937 chronicles the friendship that develops between a rich and spoiled young boy and the hardworking Portuguese fisherman who saves him from a watery grave when he falls off an ocean liner and is picked up by a Gloucester fishing       vessel off the Grand Banks. Directed by Victor Fleming, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Film Editing – Elmo Veron, and Best Screenplay – Marc Connolly, John Lee Mahin, Dale Van Every) with Spencer Tracy taking home his very first Best Actor Oscar.  This screening is co-sponsored by:  New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, and the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association, Inc.

DOCK-U-MENTARIES is a co-production of New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, Inc. and New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

Ernestina-Morrissey’s Stern

Schooner Ernestina Commissioner Fred Sterner observed that the stern seems the most obvious problem area to be addressed during the current project to restore the ship's hull.

Fred visited Boothbay Harbor Shipyard in mid-November, 2015.  These photographs were taken then.

You can see that this structure could not safely withstand the forces of the main sheet tackle on the boom buffer.

The boom buffer, in the center of the transom, below the rail, absorbs the shock when the ship jibes.

Here is a photo from 1977 when this structure was rebuilt in Cape Verde prior to the ship's return to the US as a gift from Cape Verde. There is no deck structure yet but you can see the transom and the sternpost.

Here's a long view.

Here's what it looked like in Cape Verde, 1979.

You can read about the efforts to repatriate the Ernestina-Morrissey from 1972-1982 by clicking the dates on the left of the timeline.

By mid-December, 2015, the cover over the ship was complete and as you can see the transom has been removed.

photo credit: Boothbay Harbor Shipyard

The transom in gone, the quarter-bits stand out against the horizon. photo credit: Boothbay Harbor Shipyard

The boom-buffer, along with other equipment has been safely stored at the shipyard and will be re-installed on the ship.  Did you know that boom buffers were invented by Jacob Edson?   “Jacob Edson formed Edson Corp. to design and manufacture specialty hardware for the commercial marine trade. He invented the diaphragm pump the year the company was formed, and other early inventions included a “boom buffer” to reduce the shock when a sailboat jibes, along with hardware and steering systems for the great Boston area fishing fleets, coastal schooners and cargo vessels.”

We’re not sure if this boom buffer is an Edson design, ( a New Bedford company) but we do know that the two one-gallon-a-stroke bilge pumps are Edson pumps.

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