The first year program has one major goal: transform beat to crap beetle cats into shiny fully sailable beetle cats.
By the way: Beetle Cats are so named because of the Beetle family making a particularly popular version of the ubiquitous Cat boat. It’s not named for the bug, despite its somewhat scarab-like shape.
Ok, so here we go, the raw materials:
The red boat in the upper right has many of its planks in a bundle in the center of the boat.
The blue boat’s hull (lower row, center) had been covered in fiberglass sometime in the past, probably to stop a leak. It’s a death sentence to a wooden boat, as water gets trapped in between the glass and the wood making a nice little mold soup. The wood rots under these conditions quite quickly. I expect that when we pull the fiberglass off, we’ll be able to poke holes through the planking with our fingers.
In the end, we replace every stick of wood in the boat and arrive at this:
So, if we replace all the wood, can you really call it a restoration? Why not call it a new build? It’s a good question, and the answer is that we call it a training exercise in restoration. In real life, you’d rarely do such an extensive rebuild unless you’re rebuilding something like the USS Constitution or some other historically significant boat. In those cases you’re actually re-creating the boat while demolishing the rotted old boat. It’s like you’re putting identical wood in the airspace that was previously occupied by the old boat. If you’re true to the original design, construction techniques, and materials, you’ve got yourself a reconstruction.
I’m learning that there’s a lot of ways to look at preserving history.
Here in Newport, the historical society has worked hard to preserve a whole bunch of mansions and much smaller, and much older homes. I think there are like 80 homes that have been preserved. The thing is, no one is going to pay money to visit all these places, so what do you do about upkeep, taxes, heating… on and on. The solution they’ve come up with has been to rent out the majority of them. So now there are 1700’s buildings with people living and working in them. They’ve had to update them to include plumbing, toilets, electricity, fire alarms, etc., so you can’t really say they’re perfect historical specimens, but they’re still standing, and they’re fulfilling their original purpose (to house folks). The alternative is to put them in a big barn to protect them from the elements and make them into a museum… an impossible alternative.
With boats, it’s a similar deal. Do you rebuild a boat to just have it sit in a museum? One of the boats the 2nd years will be working on is destined for this fate, never to sail ever again. Do you rebuild a boat to sail her, and if so, how much work do you need to do in order to make her seaworthy? Sometimes what you’re saving is the designer’s original shape… you’re re-creating the boat as it slid off her ways into the water for the first time. You use the same materials, even down to fabrics in the larger boats, the same rigging, the same sail types… Perhaps you get to include original hardware, parts of the keel or other bits that haven’t been destroyed by the inevitable ravages of sun and water. But then there are questions about whether you can make the boat better this time around. If you know that a new bedding compound will seal the joints much better and make this beautiful boat last another 20 years longer, do you use it even though the original didn’t? If the boats always break ribs because of a weakness in the original design, do you make the new ribs a little thicker or reinforce them to correct the problem?
Everything decays. Boats just do it faster. How to restore them and what consitutes a restoration is a constant dialogue between competing philosophies.
But these last few days I’ve been involved in far more mundane tasks: building a mallet and a tool tote. Photos soon.