’Round Town


Wed, 08/17/2022 - 7:30am

Hundreds, probably thousands of individuals, young and old, will have the opportunity to sail aboard the Ernestina-Morrissey. It will be a floating classroom. But none of those who sail will ever have the opportunity that I have had over the last seven or so years. For me, Pennsylvania coal cracker, nothing is likely to compare to all I have seen and learned while photographing this project. Also, sailing, for those who do, will quite probably be an experience that I will never fully appreciate. I saw the building of a vessel that has great history. It will be for others to learn the art of guiding the Ernestina-Morrissey through the water. That, in and of itself, should be quite an adventure. Perhaps I will get to see that, too.

One of the most recent events I was able to observe was the installing of the mainmast and the foremast. A great huge crane operated by the Cote Company from Auburn, Maine, securely stationed on the wharf at Bristol Marine (a 100,000-pound machine), managed the picking up and placement of the two finely crafted spars which I had watched being created out of square laminated material, intricately shaped to beautifully tapered “sticks.” I watched as the finish wood was being sanded and finished, carved on, fitted to and re-positioned. It was a mind-bending process. Once shaped to proper dimensions, things were added: fittings to allow for attaching cables and lines, supports and fastenings.

The culmination, the mast stepping process, was handled intricately by the Cote crane operator, the rigger(s) and the shipyard crew. In the photo I have shared you can see the very last moments of the mast placement as it was fitted to the bottom of the ship. Captain Tiffany Krihwan and yard worker Ross Branch “tweaked” the position of bottom of the mast, inserting a precisely created tenon into its receiving mortise both of which had been carefully fashioned with painstaking precision.

This may not look terribly dramatic, however when you consider that the masts were picked up from the horizontal, lying on the wharf, by a hook cabled to the crane boomed out at least 100 feet, there were some breaths being held! The 79-foot mainmast was lifted vertically and swung over the ship then lowered, all 6,900 pounds of it, precisely to where you can see in the photo. Captain Tiffany and Ross directing, through communications with people on deck, managed exact movements until the tenon on the mast end slipped perfectly into place.

It was quite something to watch, then done all over again for the foremast.

I’m happy to say, things went very well. If there were slip ups in the process, I was not aware. However, I believe a slip up probably would have been very apparent!