For the first time in decades, there are schooners 'abuilding on the famed waterfront at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada. Dawson Moreland & Associates are building not just one, but two 48' wooden schooners in the best of Maritime traditions. These 'twins' will be built simultaneously, frame for frame, plank for plank, alongside the historic Lunenburg Dory Shop at 175 Bluenose Drive. Follow their progress from keel laying to launch!

An artist's interpretation of the Twin Schooner Project

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Plank stock arrives!

The gang was all keyed up about the delivery of our plank stock today. Having travelled across Canada by train from Surrey, BC to Saint John, NB, the container arrived here at 8 a.m. sharp on a truck from Black's Transport. Then followed four hours of heavy lifting as the planks, most over 30-ft in length, were carried out of the truck, one at a time, then re-stacked and stickered.

But wow, what beautiful stuff it is - "as nice as I remembered it, possibly better," said Dave as he surveyed this beautiful clear wood. At one point, seeing a single small knot he called out, "wait, this one's going back!," then turned back to the pile with a smile. It's going to make for two beautifully-planked hulls on these schooners!

Returning from the trip out West during which he hand-picked the logs that were sawn into this plank stock, Dave put together a few thoughts for the Nova Scotia Schooner Association newsletter. Here are his words:

"Some small coastal village was what I envisioned when first starting a search for quality long length clear planking stock for these twin schooners. I didn't expect to be in downtown Surrey next door to a Tim's when I would find logs of old growth Alaska Yellow cypress. Nor did I expect that the person who had selected the logs from a brow on Haida Guai and now owned them would be a Dutchman. But there they were, being bullied about by a small jet powered push boat in the murky waters of the Fraser River. The boat was shoving logs up onto an oversized conveyor chain, which lifted them out of the water about 30 feet up to the de-barker, which in turn rolled and washed away the bark and sent them down again to ground level.

On the ground you had an immediate appreciation for the size of these forest giants, and their now evident flaws and indicators which might reveal what quality of wood was inside. At least this was what I was learning from John. John the Dutchman is a fellow who specializes in buying and milling timber, mostly for yacht construction, reconstruction and musical instruments. He knows his business and spent the whole of that day carefully examining each log and planning how to approach the cut which was scheduled for the following day. There were six cypress logs selected (by John) a month earlier with the schooner planking in mind. Our deal was that each numbered log had a price attached and I had to either agree to buy the log or not buy it once it had been split in two on the mill.

Looking at the now clean sawed butt ends I could see stained and rotten areas going, who knows how far up into the tree, and a similar stain at the top end. These were old mature trees whose time was up. I could also almost see the growth rings; so tight together were they in the largest log, I could conservatively estimate somewhere around 40/inch.

Now I've been in a few mills over the years, but this place was fascinating, not only could it manipulate logs of 40+' length and 5' diameter, but the operator could roll, tilt and adjust the log to achieve just the cut required. The two sided band saw blade, about 8" wide, cut with the carriage going both ways guided by laser. It took but minutes to render these big suckers down to 1 3/4 inch plank. So accurate was the sawing that I hardly think the planks will need to be dressed before hanging them on the boats.

The end result was a large pile of the highest quality Yellow Cypress long and clear, bundled, stickered and covered, waiting for a train."

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