The Building of "Discovery" - Winter of 1991/92


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The State Museum production facility The "boatyard" at 60 Commerce Avenue - the State Museum Exhibit Production Facility in 1991. Lumber and fittings for the project had been specially ordered and the space was reserved for the winter.

Since this project had no major funding, the building of the boat had to be done completely in-house with existing exhibit production staff. John Anson, Museum Exhibit Specialist, served as the master builder. He had a keen interest and considerable expertise in 18th century material culture, and took an intensive wooden boat construction class in Albany as preparation. John was assisted by Emil Schaller, also a Museum Exhibit Specialist, and the Exhibit Production Facility at 60 Commerce Avenue was converted for one winter into a mini-boatyard.

Prior to final production, research was completed by the History staff into batteaux of the 18th and 19th centuries, and evidence for the design of 1790s batteaux, the period of replication, was collected and analyzed. Based on these data, Phil Lord created two detailed models at one inch to one foot scale, using slightly different designs. These were then taken to John Gardner, at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, at that time the leading expert on small wooden boats of this design. During that consultation one of the models was selected as most probably accurate to the 1790s, a period not well documented for commercial batteaux, and plans were made for full-scale construction.

Drawing plans for the boat The first step was to transfer the lines to a full-scale set of plans in preparation for setting up the frames.
Cutting out the floor Cutting out the floor, which determines the overall shape of the boat. Shaped somewhat like a fish, the floor is wide at the front and tapers evenly to the stern.
Setting the stem and stern posts Setting the stempost and sternpost, which were cut from natural oak knees donated to the project by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vermont.
Laying on the first planks With all the ribs (frames) in place and braced, and the stem and stern attached, it was time to lay on the first planks, fit to the contours of the floor.
Additional planking going on Once the first planks (garboards) go on along the bottom, each additional plank is laid on directly against the last, creating an even curving plane along each side - the source of this design's strength and simplicity.
Sealing the seams With the planking done, attention was focused on finishing the gunwales, trimming off waste and sealing all the seams.
Finishing the bottom Rolling the hull, which at this point is structurally sound and very strong, allows the builders to begin exterior finish work, including rubbing boards along the nearly flat bottom.
Final carpentry work inside Finish carpentry work on the interior is underway, including doubled gunwale/inwale construction and tie-down bars along the inside of the hold.
Installing the mast step Emil Schaller starts final finishing of the inside, as installation of the mast step and brace and painting moves forward and the builders turn from creating the basic batteau to making it fully functional and seaworthy.
Making the mast from a sapling John Anson begins the process of transforming a straight spruce sapling, donated by Phil Lord from his own backyard, into the boat's single mast.
Final mast alingment is tested Final alignment of the mast, mast step and mast brace is completed, turning what is essentially a poled boat, good for shallow river transport, into a sailing craft, following known 18th century accounts and illustrations.
Making the canvas sails Bob Mulligan sets to work cutting and stitching the sails from canvas donated to the project by Passonno Paints of Watervliet. Testing this sail design would be part of the experimental agenda of the project.

 


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