Putting a new bot­tom on the log-built bug­eye Edna E. Lock­wood was ba­si­cally a large-scale boat­build­ing jig­saw puz­zle.

Soundings - - Contents - By Gary Re­ich

The cam­pus of Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Mar­itime Mu­seum in St. Michaels, Mary­land, is typ­i­cally quiet and serene. Things were much dif­fer­ent on this morn­ing. As I walked the grounds, the high-pitched whines of chain saws and power plan­ers filled the air.

Ship­wrights were re­spon­si­ble for the cacophony of wood­cut­ting sounds. As I rounded the boat­build­ing shed, I could see a mu­seum crewmem­ber prep­ping the top­sides and decks of the bug­eye Edna E. Lock­wood to mesh with her newly crafted log bot­tom. The scene looked like a large-scale boat­build­ing jig­saw puz­zle. I’ve tracked the restora­tion of the Edna E.

Lock­wood — a tra­di­tional Ch­e­sa­peake sail­ing craft used for oys­ter­ing — since the mu­seum started look­ing to re­place her orig­i­nal 1889 log bot­tom about five or six years ago. The search for new logs took longer than ex­pected, but in March 2016, 16 suit­able loblolly pine trees were sourced on the East­ern Shore.

In Septem­ber 2016, ship­wrights started cut­ting the trees with chain saws, axes and adzes. Within three or four months, Edna’s new bot­tom took shape. This past March, the crew drove long, gal­va­nized pins through the logs, ty­ing them to­gether into a struc­ture that looked like a Fri­tos corn chip. Next, the ship­wrights worked to sep­a­rate Edna’s rel­a­tively in­tact cabin houses, decks and top­sides from her tired, dis­torted bot­tom.

Just a cou­ple of weeks be­fore my Oc­to­ber visit, the ship­wrights cut Edna free from her old log bot­tom and hoisted the boat by crane to rest a cou­ple of feet above the new one that vol­un­teers and ship­wrights had cre­ated. The oc­ca­sion was a mile­stone in the restora­tion of the 128-year-old bug­eye.

CBMM boat­yard man­ager Michael Gor­man, who is lead­ing the project, was con­torted like a pret­zel when I found him be­tween Edna’s old top­sides and her new bot­tom. “We’re shap­ing the logs now so we can fit the old stem, stern and frames to­gether,” Gor­man says, peel­ing off his ear and eye pro­tec­tion. “We’ve been shap­ing these logs for a year now, and it’s time to make the fi­nal fit. Power plan­ers and chain saws have been valu­able tools in the process, but some­times axes, chis­els and adzes work the best.”

I’ve al­ways thought that hand-cut­ting and shap­ing logs and pin­ning them to­gether by hand — not to men­tion find­ing the right trees for the job — seems like an in­ef­fi­cient way to cre­ate a bot­tom, com­pared to the tra­di­tional plank-on-frame method. Gor­man says the log- bot­tom process was born of ne­ces­sity.

“Most boat­builders [ when Edna was built] didn’t have sawmills on­site, so felling the trees and then saw­ing and shap­ing the logs with hand­saws, adzes and axes was quite ef­fi­cient for the time,” he says.

Edna’s old log bot­tom was nearby. It was easy to see the logs that 1800s crafts­men had shaped and pinned to­gether to cre­ate the hull, but the wood had worn away. Al­most all of the wrought-iron pins hold­ing the logs to­gether were vis­i­ble. “Metal

sick­ness is what did this hull in, but it’s re­mark­able how much of her bot­tom is orig­i­nal after 128 years,” Gor­man says. “You can see some patches here and there, but the over­all con­di­tion of the bot­tom is pretty in­cred­i­ble.”

Edna’s old bot­tom will re­main at CBMM as an ex­hibit, to show how boat­builders once put log-bot­tom boats to­gether. Look­ing at it made me won­der how to­day’s ship­wrights had trans­ferred the new bot­tom’s mea­sure­ments from the old hull.

“The National Park Ser­vice laser-scanned the en­tire struc­ture,” Gor­man says. “We had an ex­cel­lent map of the en­tire struc­ture, so we didn’t en­counter a lot of un­fore­seen chal­lenges in build­ing the new bot­tom. It was just a matter of pro­ject­ing those mea­sure­ments onto the logs we found. Once we’d shaped our logs, we drilled long holes through them and pinned them to­gether.”

Gor­man says Edna also un­der­went an ex­ten­sive restora­tion at the mu­seum in 1975. “They re­placed vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing from the wa­ter­line up,” he says. Those crafts­men added 21 knees, new frames, a heav­ier king plank and more tie rods.

“By the time we fin­ish next Oc­to­ber, vir­tu­ally noth­ing orig­i­nal will be left,” Gor­man adds. “What’s im­por­tant is how we’re restor­ing her, which is true to her orig­i­nal build.”

Gor­man and his crew will spend the next year putting Edna back to­gether. Her masts are in good shape, and freshly fab­ri­cated booms are ready to in­stall. A new oak cen­ter­board is wait­ing, too.

I can’t wait to see the Edna E. Lock­wood splash at CBMM’s Oys­terFest next Oc­to­ber.

A crane lifted the Edna E. Lock­wood from her old bot­tom (vis­i­ble at left) and placed her on sup­ports a few feet above her new bot­tom.

The Edna E. Lock­wood’s frames fit per­fectly into her new bot­tom, like puz­zle pieces.

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