Tag Archives: spar

Wooden Spars

As we’re starting to complete our 4′ sections of the wooden spars, I thought I would tease you with pictures of the topsail spars posed as a set.

Remember, the topmast is 58′ tall, the #1 topsail yard 68′ tall, and the topsail club 58′ long. For reference, the peak of our bldg. 28 workshop in which theses pictures were taken is just shy of 26′.

In the pictures, the rectangular cross-section yard is standing next to the round topmast. The club lies next to the yard and it would have been made up to the fabricated steel gaff.

The luff of the #1 topsail which these spars hold up is about 105′ long at the luff.

Our 4′ sections weigh:
Topmast 95 lbs.
Yard 62 lbs
Club 40 lbs

(The spinnaker boom shown in the background and as a separate picture weighs 58 lbs. and was more than 83′ long)

Come and visit these guys!





How big?

Following the completion of the bowsprit section mentioned in the last post, we began exploring other ideas to show the massive size of RELIANCE. We came up with a particularly interesting idea, and began bringing it to life. For hours on end, Herreshoff volunteers could be seen with spray cans, painting the floor of Building 28. Soon, long lines were painted on the floor, but for what exactly? Three distinct lines can be seen, each representing a true scale shadow of a different portion of RELIANCE. Accompanying the wooden section cut of the bowsprit is a shadow of the full 41-foot, 14 inch diameter bowsprit. Alongside this piece is a shadow of the full 115-foot, 21 inch diameter boom, and the 112-foot 6-inch, 26 inch diameter mast. To look at these artifacts laid out on the floor, it becomes clear how large RELIANCE was. Even looking at it now, I still cannot believe the sheer size of RELIANCE, and the incredible length and diameter of her spars. If you would like to see the work for yourself, the best days to visit Building 28 are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 9am until 4pm. You can also check in at the Museum store on other days to see if the Building is available for viewing. So make your way down to Building 28 to see all of the work as it happens!

The shadow of the bowsprit is laid out in front of the model with the section cut showing a three-dimensional representation of the 41-foot shadow.

The shadow of the bowsprit is laid out in front of the model with the section cut showing a three-dimensional representation of the 41-foot shadow.

The shadow of the 21-inch boom is in white, while the shadow of the 26-inch mast is blue. At 115-feet, this artifact spans the entire length of Building 28, plus some!

The shadow of the 21-inch boom is in white, while the shadow of the 26-inch mast is blue. At 115-feet, this artifact spans the entire length of Building 28, plus some!

-Aaron Towers

Spars and Masts

One of our readers asked for a sailplan diagram showing the spars and masts. I enclose a sketch which answers this question.

I should also note that RELIANCE carried three sets of topsails yards and clubs. #1, #2 and #3 from largest to smallest. Thus there were four sizes of topsails including a gaff topsail.

The same philosophy extended to the headsails where there were multiple sizes of jib topsail (flying jib), jib, staysail, balloon jib and spinnaker. We also noted that during the course of her short sailing life they made 6 sets of sails of each size! (Going downwind RELIANCE carried a balloon jib to leeward and spinnaker to windward; each with its peak at the topmast tip.)

We have also noted that spare spars were made for each mast, boom, gaff and topsail spars. Some of these were re-purposed for later boats. Most spectacularly, the Schooner Katoura (1914) carried RELIANCE’s spare mast as her mainmast and Constitution’s’s spare mast as her foremast.

Size of these spars is:
Mast 112′ 5″ long with max diameter of 26″ (106′ was above deck) – fabricated metal
Boom 105′ long with max diameter of 21″ – fabricated metal
Gaff 68′ 7/8″ long with max diameter of 14″ – fabricated metal
Bowsprit 40 7 1/2″ long with max diameter 14″ – solid douglas fir
Spinnaker boom 83′ 4″ with max diameter of 12 9/16″- hollow douglas fir
Telescoping Topmast 58′ 3″ long with 13″ diameter. (8’4″ was inside the mast when erect) – hollow sitka spruce with nicket steel fabricated cone
Club topsail yard 68′ 0″ long and 13 5/8″ x 10″ in cross section – hollow douglas fir (The scotchman attaching this yard to the top of the topmast was placed 32′ from the top of the yard)
Club Topsail Club 57′ 6″ long and 7 1/2″ x 6 3/4″ in cross section – hollow douglas fir

It is interesting to note the relative size and cross section of the topmast (13″ dia) and the longer club topsail yard (13 5/8″ wide) which is made up alongside the topmast when under sail.


Update on Spar Making Activities

I thought I’d give you a status of our spar making activities.
We’ve completed:
-Douglas Fir hollow Spinnaker pole (83′ 6″)
-#1 Douglas Fir hollow Club Topsail yard (68′)
-#1 Douglas Fir hollow Club Topsail Club (57’6″‘)

This past Saturday a gentleman came into our shop with several pristine RELIANCE drawings from Hart Museum. These showed new penciled note information, not on our own microfilm copies:
a. That the boom was lengthened 3’0″ during May 1903 (From 111′ boom length or 112′ from center of boom hanging)
b. That the #1 and #2 club topsail club spar had 7/8″ sail tracks twhich end 2′ from spar tips.

With that information we’ll be scheduling a visit to MIT’s Hart Museum to ensure we have all the “red-lines” and will retrofit the club with a sail track!

We’ve nearly completed the bowsprit (40′ 7 1/2″). We’ve cast and formed the pieces at the tip and will install the retaining bar shortly at the butt. This will complete everything we can do on the bowsprit until fastening it to the deck.

We’ve finished shaping a hollow Douglas fir gaff complete with fittings at the end. We are in the process of fashioning the jaws end– the metal ring and tongue, jaws and eye have been cast in bronze and dry fitted to the spar. We also have a photo of gaff jaws, saddle and parrel on Eleonora a “Westward” replica. Westward was contemporaneous to RELIANCE, and we’ll do some searching of the drawings to confirm the picture. There will be many layers of paint applied to our gaff so we get this to look like metal. (at this time we’ll leave the final coat off, since we do not yet know what color the metal spars were painted. I expect that we’ll be able to show you the completed gaff and saddle in several weeks so keep posted! FYI, the original gaff was fabricated metal like the mast and boom. Pictures of the mainsail being raised show how much the boom and gaff flexed until supported by the halyards and mainsail.

We are also working on the boom which we’ve hollowed out and are shaping from Douglas fir. The original was metal plated over metal bulkheads and stringers. The irony of receiving these new drawings on Saturday was that we had just chopped our boom to its original 111′ length one hour before! So, we’ve spent the next couple of days adding the additional 3′ just as HM Co must have! Grrrrr….

We have just ordered Sitka spruce for the topmast. The original topmast was a 56′ 4″ hollow Douglas fir spar. (56′ 4″ without the metal top cone). In June 1903 Captain Nat ordered a second design for the topmast (58’3″ including nickel steel cone). We wonder whether this design results from the dismasting RELIANCE suffered. We’ll have check the dates. The only significant differences in the two designs seem to be that:
– It is now Sitka Spruce
– The bottom portion of the mast is hollowed out 7″ vs 7 1/2″ on the first design. I have no idea whether this to beef it up or compensate for strength differences between Douglas fir and Sitka. Sitka is also lighter.
– The fid which holds the topmast in its erect position is now 1 1/2″ wide vs 1″ on the original
– Original had 8 internal pine bulkheads, 1 3/8’ thick, spaced 5’10 1/2″ apart, but these do not appear on the second drawing, except perhaps at the top bearing ring.

We’ll be constructing this spar the way we believe Herreshoff actually did. Notes on the second design drawing are very helpful (sketch enclosed). It seems to us that HM Co. would first glue up four sets of two 5″ x 5″ sitka stock to form the four sides. These would then be beveled at 45 degrees as shown and routed out for the 7″ diameter core at the bottom, and increased to 9 1/2″ at the top, perhaps using an inclined jig. The square hollow at each end would naturally form when the sides are glued together. When these four sides are ready, they would be glued together to form the mast; the flat outside surfaces forming superb clamping surfaces. Though the topmast is a “straight stick” it would be easy with this approach to taper the spar as well, keeping a constant wall thickness. After gluing, it would be an easy step to round off the outsides using traditional methods. What do you think?

I’ll shortly post some Classic Yacht Symposium articles which show the way that spars were made for the Herreshoff NY50 “Spartan.” One section discusses Herreshoff spar making. I’ll add some pictures from our archives of the spar-making shop and also photos of Columbia’s topmast which once was used as a flag pole. The spar is broken and photos of the inside show reinforcing strips inside the staves. These don’t appear to run the entire length and may have in fact reinforced scarfed joints. TBD. (A note on RELIANCE’s second design says that the scarfs are to be 3’6″) A spar maker who viewed Columbia’s topmast was amazed at these reinforcing strips, noting that early aluminum masts and current carbon fiber masts also have such reinforcement.

Sketch of RELIANCE's topmast, second design

Sketch of RELIANCE’s topmast, second design