Blackbird

Blackbird
Peter and Sandy Thompson
Freeport, Maine

Blackbird Reaching During Mariah's Cup 1995

Stern View Mariah's Cup 1995

Summary
Vessel Name: BLACKBIRD (Original Name)
Home port: Freeport, Maine
Designer: John G. Alden
Design No. 309 Q
Vessel Type : Auxiliary Centerboard Schooner
Rig: Jib headed main, gaff foresail, club jib

Desiger
John G. Alden, Naval Arcitects, Boston , Mass.
Aage Nielson: Hull and Lines
Clifford Swain: Accommodation Plan
Carl Alberg: Sail Plan

Particulars
LOD 43' 0" LWL 33' 3" Beam 12' 6" Draft 4 2" [Board up]
Displacement: 17 Tons (wet and laden)14 Tons Design
Propulsion: D’sl (4 107 Westerbeke)
Sail Area: 1,028 Ft2 [Lowers]

Builder: Goudy and Stevens, East Boothbay, Maine
Built: in 1930, and delivered: “on or before July 4” according to terms of Armes contract with Alden.

Construction: Carvel planking with 5/4' Long Leaf Yellow Pine on 1 7/8 by 2 inch steam bent oak frames, oak timbers, painted white pine decks, mahogany covering boards, bulwarks, cap rail, cabin trunk, trim and oval cockpit,

Spars: Sitka and western pine. Standing rigging and fasteners: original galvanized iron fastners restored silicon bronze. Rigging still galvanized wire rope.

Accommodation Plan
Galley forward. Owner’s enclosed stateroom port, main cabin sliding and hanging berths port, settee and quarter berth to starboard, with mahogany chest of drawers and hanging closet to port. Head amidships starboard. Pipe berth in foc’sl. Five hatches for ventilation and two for engine room access. Running backstays for holding onto when needed.

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Crew

Old Friends: Former long time owner Charles Hamblett driving Blackbird with current owner Peter Thompson The foredeck crew in 1993 Halyard Seaworthy Pecan on foredeck watch at the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta 1996 Halyard looking for some foul weather gear Tiller Seagoing Schoonerdog, the new recruithttp://216.194.168.38/~amscho5/files/Tillerdog_0.jpg[inline:Tillerdog.jpg]<img:Tillerdog.jpg>  Pirate Crew returns for the first annual Carribean Party

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History of Ownership

An Alden 309 circa 1929 History From 1926 to 1930, seventeen auxiliary centerboard schooners were built to the specifications of Alden’s design number 309, of which Blackbird was the last. A 309 R was designed but never built. The popularity of the 309 design with cruising yachtsmen stemmed from their comfortable accommodations, handsome appearance and ease of handling under a variety of conditions. The 309 was developed from several previous Alden designs, including Golden Hind, (# 266) and Hearts Desire (# 253)and the popular 43-foot 270’s. Blackbird was built by the Goudy and Stevens yard in 1930, for the price of $10,000, commissioned and delivered in Marion MA for Myron Arms. Charles Arms son of Myron Arms still remembers the day of her arrival with an Alden provided captain and cabin boy who stayed on board for the summer. The time of the vessel’s building coincided with the Great Depression and the Prohibition in the United States. Consequently her liquor cabinet was fashioned as a hidden door in the head of the centerboard trunk. As the Great Depression worsened in 1930 and 1931, and the decline of economic activity continued, Blackbird’s ownership changed quickly; having been sold to Arthur Verseay of Haverhill, MA in 1931, and then to Hubert Toppin, the Commodore of the Essex Yacht Club in Connecticut in 1935. Blackbird was Toppin’s pride and joy, sailing her to first place in EYC’s 1937 regatta. In September of 1938, still under his care and ownership, she rode the 140 mph fury of the Great Hurricane of New England secured to the yacht club pier. Yachting Magazine, December 1938 September 21, "Blackbird" Commodore Huber Toppin's 43-foot schooner pounding against the pier of the Essex Y.C. The cutter "Typhoon" has sunk outside her. This photograph was taken at 3:45. H.M. Baker As the tale goes, only one vessel remained floating at Essex when the hurricane had passed. That vessel was supposedly an Alden on charter, who's skipper remained on board all night shifting anchors. A photograph of the devastation, taken purportedly by the skipper of that vessel the next morning and handed down by H. Littlejohn, shows only Blackbird’s masts above the flood waters, flying a tattered burgee, over the tangled wreckage of two other yachts which were thrown clear onto the club lawn. Essex Yacht Club Essex CT, September 22, 1938 Aftermath of the 1938 Hurricane Blackbird sunk at EYC Pier Commodore Toppin had his schooner re-floated and repaired. Suprisingly, the damage was limited and only required replacement of a small section of the shear strake, and adjoining covering board, bulwark and cap rail. Her lines retain a slight lift in her shear along the port side at the location of the main chain plates where she was battered against a piling at Essex. Several of what appear to be Blackbird’s original sails, bearing Toppin’s name are still aboard and are still used, weather permitting. Toppin went on to sail his schooner another twelve years in Long Island Sound until 1950, when the boat was sold to Charles Phinney of Manchester by the Sea, Massachusetts. Since then she has changed owners six times, being purchased by Joshua Spaulding in 1960, Stephen Parsons in 1963, Charles Hamblett of Kittery, Maine in 1965 where she was a well known landmark at Kittery Point. Larry Wheeler purchased her in 1983, and removed the centerboard. Wheeler sold the boat to Collin Eggleton in 1989 and she was finally purchased by her present owners, Sandy and Peter Thompson in 1993. The centerboard was recovered from a barn in Cumberland, Maine in 1997 and will be relagated to a life as a garden ornament. Blackbird is known, and not surprisingly so, to a number of people up and down the New England Coast, and always enjoyed her annual romp to visit her former owner’s Charles and Eve Hamblett of Deer Isle, Maine. The Hamblett's have became close friends, though Charles regrettably passed away a few years back. In 1995, Blackbird had the distinct pleasure of having Frank Eaton, Jr. aboard at the Bucks Harbor Yacht Club; whose father once owned the sister ship 309 L, Nordlys, in the 1940’s. 309 L is now in Ohio. Over the past 18 years, Blackbird has introduced us many of her friends and acquaintances which has been one of the great pleasures received in exchange for care given in the restoration of this wonderful old cruising schooner. In her 81st year Blackbird is a humble testimony to quality of the design, workmanship and materials of her period. With good sensible care by many owners, she still retains all of her original planking except her garboards, her original rig and interior, and is undergoing replacement of her horntimber, sternpost, keel, refastening and refurbishment of her iron ballast, centerboard trunk and centerboard, frames and floor timbers, deck, cockpit coaming and coach roof canvas. In every sense of the word she has been fortunate enough to remain, faithfully in originality and appearance, one of the ruggedly built, 43 foot Alden cruising schooners. To our knowledge, 5 other 309s are in sailing condition, though most appear to have been moderately to sigificantly altered with respect to rig, hull and interior layout. When Blackbird returns soon to the water she will have her original interior, the cabin sole and ceilings will be replaced with identical materials as original (except with the use of Angellique in her keel structure and trunk), original spars, cabinhouse, rails and bulwark, and original planking with exception of the garboards, and original iron ballast. Frames, fasteners, floors, keelbolts, keel timber, centerboard trunk, centerboard, deadwood, rudder and deck will be new.

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Restoration Progress

 Restoration Progress – Updated June 2013Blackbird’s original construction was 1 1/4” carvel long leaf yellow pine planking on 1 7/8” x 2” steam bent frames, fastened with galvanized swedish nails. Clamps and carlins are also long leaf while the remaining timbers are (or in some cases were) oak including the floor timbers, false keel, sternpost, deadwood, horn timber, forefoot, stem, centerboard, rudder and centerboard trunk. The ceilings were ½ inch pine, and the floors vertical grain fir. Decks are sprung, painted white pine. Covering board, bulwark, cap rail, cabin trunk, cockpit and trim are mahogany. The decks are painted white pine, fastened with galvanized screws. Based on what we have observed, sections of the port and starboard covering boards, and shear plank were replaced around the main chain plates when the vessel was refloated after the 1938 Hurricane. After removal of the deck it was also clear the bridgedeck had been rebuilt. A piece of original shear plank removed in that repair was found on a butt block behind the ceiling when it was removed in 2001. The original paint on that piece of plank is still like new, being gloss black with a yellow-gold cove stripe. In addition a small children’s toy, a choo-choo train, (pictured below) was found on a butt farther forward. From the red lead paint and blue enamel paint on the train, we suspect is was made by a someone at the Goudy Steven’s yard at the time the boat was built and lost by some child playing with it along the top of the ceiling. Sometimes you find neat things when you open up an old boat. Circa 1930 (?) Choo choo Other repairs over the years included replacement of the stem (late 1960s) and center fastening of a majority of planks by the Hambletts. In the early 1970’s Charles Hamblett replaced her centerboard and re-supported the trunk by cutting out the bottom corners of the floor timbers, sliding in rebar, and casting concrete around the base of the trunk and keel timber. While some may frown on such a repair, it did the trick for many years and provided a lot of longitudinal strength to the vessel. In the early 1980’s Larry Wheeler removed the board and plugged the trunk. In the late 1980’s Collin Eggleton removed the iron ballast keel, re-bolted the trunk area floor timbers through the keel timber, and reinstalled the ballast keel with galvanized steel keel bolts. Blackbird, to that point, had not spent a winter out of the water since at least the early 1960’s. Our effort started with maintenance and prioritized repair work that could be accomplished in small areas when the boat was in the water or hauled in the spring. These efforts included replacing the forward port mast partner, forward section of deck over the partner, installing a new pin rail around the foremast, reefing, caulking, and refastening portions of the fore deck, installing new house moldings, installing new foremast chain plates, refastening the garboard and adjacent planks, replacing the accessible frame ends in the engine room, installing new floor timbers and engine beds in the engine room, removing the galley and head structures and installing new frames in those moisture prone areas. In addition, some refastening was conducted in critical areas, and the boat was kept up with a thorough program of painting and varnishing. Our philosophy with the boat had been to resist taking so much apart at once that the time required to put it back together becomes overwhelming to the detriment of the vessel. We continued with this approach until we brought the vessel home. Far too many boats have been lost because the best intentioned owners run out of steam long before the job is done. To rebuild a vessel this size by yourself is not a sprint but a marathon. At the end of the 2000 sailing season, after sailing her since 1993, we decided to explore what would be required to re-install the centerboard since, in addition to a loss of windward performance, the lack of a board was putting a lot of extra stress on the rudder shaft and strain on aging stern post when sailing in rough conditions. We started at the boat yard with removal of a couple thousand pounds concrete, with a jack hammer, from around the keel and trunk to survey the trunk and keel timber. Given that the job would require replacement of a number of frames due to deteriorating frame heels, we decided to move her home and built a geosynthetically reinforced boat pad at the house. Blackbird was transported there in late August 2001. A metal pole shed was set up to protect the boat from sun and rain. Had we considered snow loads and the ultimate duration of the project we would have better served building a barn. Blackbird Comes Home, Freeport Maine The next step in the work was to carefully remove the original interior joinery to permit it to be refurbished and re-installed, and then cut away the ceiling planking and cabin sole which will be replaced. Starboard Quarter Before and After This was followed by removal of fastener bungs, cutting out every other the oak frame from the inside and carefully driving the iron fasteners out through the planking. Minor repairs were made to refurbish the few fastener holes that did show minor iron sickness. The long leaf yellow pine planks appear to be highly resistant to electrolysis due to the high pitch content of the wood. Only two small sections of plank were replaced, not including the garboard. Cutting and Splitting Out the Frames Prior to Driving Out the Iron Fasteners Only a few frames showed extensional (tension) breaks, and were mostly damaged in their cores from iron sickening. The steam bent frames were replaced from the bridge deck to the stem with laminated white oak frames glued with resorcinol. They were installed in-place without removing the bilge or shear clamps or the decks, covering board, bulwark or any planks. The frames were mechanically fastened to produce paper thin glue joints. The frames were then painted with red lead paint, and warmed with heat lamps to ensure attaining the 70 degree temperature required to properly cure the glue. Although this approach requires more time, it meant that more of the original boat can be retained for longer, at least for the time being. While the significance of retaining as much original boat can be debated, it was our choice none the less. This method is labor intensive and would not be economical if you were paying a yard to do it. Heat to Cure Frame, Aluminum Foil to Protect the Planks Once the boat was reframed and fastened with silicon bronze screws, or largely so, a cradle was built under it to allow the wood blocking and iron ballast to be removed. When the cradle was in place, and prior to pulling the blocking, the keel bolts were driven out using a 50 lb lead sledge hammer. The lead sledge is easily made using an old shaft and tomato juice can as a mold into which molten lead is poured. Small Bolt Being Used to Drive Keelbolt Down Through Deadwood. The five ton iron ballast was then separated from the keel timber and lowered onto rollers and slid sideways, out of the way. The final removal was actually an easy two hour job job for two guys, with two come-alongs, and two 6-packs. Twenty Three Foot Long Iron Ballast Being Lowered onto Rollers, Prior to Being Pulled to Left, Out from Under Vessel. Next the garboard planks were removed, the floor timber –keel timber drifts cut and the keel timber lowered and slid out the back of the boat (after removal of the old centerboard trunk). An angelique keel timber blank was purchased from Brad Ives (deepwaterventures.com – see the ASA link page) and chain sawed to rough dimensions prior to having it planed. As most of the damage to the old keel timber was associated with the frame pockets, the new frames will not be pocketed into the new keel timber. Timber Ready For Transport Through the Big Dig Cutting the Rough Blank New and Old Keel Timber With Centerboard Slot The new keel timber was then fitted to the boat. Fitting the Keel Timber to the Deadwood View of New Keel Timber From Interior prior to the trunk being built and the floor timbers being removed. The full width floor timbers under the mast step and aft under the companionway were installed prior to removal of the original keel timber to help locate the new keel timber relative to the waterline. The rabbet to accept the new garboard plank was cut, and the stern post and horntimber replaced in Angellique. All have been bolted in place. Lastly the frame ends were trimmed flush againt the keel timber, and fastened in to the hold the proper bottom shape for the new floor timbers. Stern Post, Horn Timber and Keel Timber Next the new centerboard trunk was installed, also construcetd from Angellique. The trunk was fashioned in the identical manner as the original with splined sideboards. The original was drifted, but we felt it prudent to bolt it through the entire trunk sides on one foot centers. The bolts pass through just grazing the outside edge of the splines. All components of the trunk (splines, joints, and bolts) were bedded in white lead. Following this, all remaining original floor timbers were removed and new white oak floor timbers cut and installed. Each is bolted (back at an angle) through the keel timber to pull the joint in tight,and are then fastened through the long leaf planks with number 18 screws. Due to the braod nature of the floors, the fasteners are across the grain. Inside view from the companionway showing new floor timbers, centerboard trunk, new frames and new main mast step, bolted and drifted to new keel timber. Next we hired an apprentice by the name of Drew Shelton and we set him loose on the iron ballast which had to be chinked, ground down with angle grinders to bare metal on the outside, then burnished with a wire brush, primed with acid etching zinc chromate and painted with five coats of Interlux Interprotect 2000. If that system is successfull in keeping the iron ballast dryer, it will help protect against both corrosion and electrolysis. Ballast Keel cleaned up and coated with Interprotect. The next step was to grind down the inside of the centerboard trunk slot in the iron ballast. This required a new tool, shown here, a home made angle grinder with a smaller 14-inch blade and a 20-inch blade to get at the middle of the iron trunk slot. If it doesn't makes you kind of nervous when you pull the trigger on this tool then something's wrong. Angle Grinder. For cleaning up the centerboard slot in the iron ballast. One of the original wrought iron keel bolts had snapped off yeasrs ago and that bolt was bored out. The other bolt holes in the iron were trued using brake cylinder hone, and coated with Interprotec. The original ballast when cast was not flat and had a 0.25-inch crown under the middle of the centerboard trunk and fell away an additional inch in the stern under the deadwood. The crown was ground down with an angle grinder and a lead wedge was cast to make up the difference in the stern. This was important to keep any bending strain off the keel timber under the centerboard trunk when it was bolted to the ballast. The lead wedge was easily shaped with an electric plane after it was poured. The grinding and fitting that ensued required the iron ballast to be moved out and back under the boat approximately twenty times before an acceptable fit was achieved. The fit was deemed acceptable when the surface contact area was approximately 50% and the maximum gap varied from less than an eighth to a sixteenth of an inch. The 1.25 inch diameter keel bolts were fabricated from Aquamet 22, a crevice corrosion resistant stainless alloy. The bolts were installed with bronze nuts to prevent galling (at the advice of Niels Helleburg). Stainless, ipe and angelique backing blocks were used (depending on location) to spread load and prevent damage to the keel timber should the bolts ever work. Galvanized wrought iron and rolled iron bolts were considered but rejected due to longevity concerns. Monel was rejected due to cost. The Aquamet 22 should give us a 30 year life and can be easily removed for inspection. The objective of the installation was to seal the iron from water intrusion and minimize water contact with the bolts. Kell bolts with teflon tread tape to protect the threads from the bedding compound during installation. Angled wooden backing blocks were cut and glues in place in way of the trunk since these bolts angle outward. To bed the ballast to the keel timber and prevent leakage around the keel bolts the bolt holes were predrilled and the holes up into the keel timber were chamfered with a 45 degree router bit. A matching chamfer was ground around the bolt holes in the ballast. Thus the bedding around the keel bolt has a triangular wedge shape in section similar in concept to a large o-ring. This increased surface area will prevent water intrusion around the bolt. The bottom of the keel timber and the top of the iron ballast, and the keel bolts were dressed with three coats of high temperature mold release wax. 3M 5200 was used as the bedding compound due to its superior stability and resistance to degradation. By waxing the mating surfaces, the 5200 will not adhere but will form a custom made gasket. Should the iron ballast ever need to be separated from the boat again, it will come apart. Other elastomers and tar were considered but rejected due to longevity concerns. This use of 5200 to form a gasket also works well with deck fittings. The gasket once made can be removed and trimmed and the used over and over again if the fitting is removed to make painting or varnishing easier. At installation time, 20 tubes of 5200 were applied (based on a calculated surface area and gap)and spread uniformly over the ballast. As mentioned previously, the keel bolt threads were wrapped with teflon plumbers tape. The ballast was then rolled back under the boat and positioned to get the forward bolt lined up. With that bolt in place and the ballast jacked to within millimeters of the final elevation, the stern of the ballast was swung port and starboard until all 13 bolt holes fell into alignment. The aft most bolt was then driven in and the ballast jacked into contact with the keel. Working quickly all bolts were sequentially driven in, the Teflon tape removed and backing blocks and nuts applied. The square heads and bottom of the bolts were give a liberal coat of boatyard bedding compound. The bolts were then torqued to original Alden specifications. The bolts were tightened several times as the 5200 spread and oozed out. Final tightening occurred twelve hours later when the 5200 was partially cured to help compress the chamfered gasket around the bolts. The excess 5200 was trimmed from the ballast-keel joint and inside the trunk after 24 hours before it was fully cured. The entire process of bedding the ballast and bolting it up took about four hours. With a good estimate on initial volume of 5200 we had a even amount of squeezout, that was complete but not excessive. The final seam between the iron ballast and angellique keel timber is straight and uniform. The next task was to immediately get to work removing the original painted white pine deck. The deck was removed in about a two weeks with much note taking and photo documentation. This exposed the presence of more 38 hurricane repairs that had been previously unknown. These included repairs to the bridge deck, and transom beam. The pine deck had no rot but many of the deck beams had suffered from the iron nails. The oval cockpit was removed and a new one will be made over the winter. Subsequent to this the fore deck and cockpit were reframed, the front of the cabin trunk was pulled and the corner posts replaced. Rather than replace the front, we repaired it consistent with the intent of preserving as much original fabic as is both possible and reasonable. Much of the deck reframing was completed by Joe Lowell of Even Keel Marine. Joe is a real artist in his joinery work. Tiller helped with disposing the old deck and milling the new deck. We hope to be laying the new deck soon. The old deck provided many delightful fires. The new white pine is vertical grain from Viking Lumber in Belfast who cut the blank stock couple of years ago. A 15 degree chamfer bit in the router table was a perfet match to the original calking bead (1/8 wide by 1/2 inch deep) about one third of the cost of the deck wood was left on the floor. Painted white pine was the original deck and a great option. $800 was the cost of the wood. Doug fir would also make an excellent choice. Date of update:January 27, 2012 Onward on the deck. Progress by pictures follows from December 2011 through January. Since we were tying into the old deck around the cabinhouse we started from the foredeck kingplank and cabin house planking outward, a bit unconventional, but seemed easier to make up any differences by spiling along the cover board. Crew comprised of Saltywind Roger, SchoonerFred, Evenkeel Joe and Johntar arrived for a week in early december to begin laying the new sprung pine deck. Some of us required more supervision than the rest, but it was a fun week and alot was accomplished. When the foredeck got out to the cabin trunk, we ran aft to the transom to line up the plank runs fore and aft, port then starboard. This allowed work to progress in both the cockpit and foredeck at the same time Eventually by mid January most of the deck had been laid and then we had to begin fussing around with slower tasks such as scarfing in new pieces of covering board around the chainplates. Here is John Tarbox who has done much of the deck on the foredeck, and some details of the kingplank and the almost complete foredeck from the starboard side.

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