Monday, May 11, 2009

Getting the Whitehall in the Water

In the last few weeks I managed to finish sanding and painting the Whitehall and get it ready to put in the water. I spent the last two weeks before launching it pouring water into it to swell the planks. I saw this recommended as a way of avoiding the "Oh my God, my boat's sinking!" feeling when a wood planked boat is put in the water after a long haul-out. I'm glad I did this. When I first started soaking the hull, water poured out. Later it still dribbled out.

We got it in the water down a nasty boat ramp. The car got stuck in some wet mud (silt) and we had to get some help to get it loose. While we waited for a tow chain, I rowed the Whitehall around a bit. It handled fine.

The occasion was a pirate event at the Santa Maria which is 1/2 mile from the boat launch. After we got the car free, I set off with a volunteer crew. I didn't have the rudder on yet so we steered with the oars and a paddle that I used from the bow. The boat took a on a bit of water but not too much.

I checked it regularly. By nightfall it had stopped taking in water. It still leaks when people are in it. The extra weight forces the boat lower in the water and water seeps in past planks that have not swollen shut yet. If I could just have three or four people sit in the boat for 6-8 hours then this leak would swell shut, also.

We used it for the battle both days. We had three people the first day and four the second. Michael and I also went out with the wives. The boat is fine with four people - not crowded at all. We could fit in a fifth person. Any more than that would be crowded.

It rows well. It has three rowing stations but only two sets of oars. I decided that this is so that one person can row from the middle station (the sliding rowing seat and the foot pedals for the tiller are both set up for here. If you have two people rowing then it is better to have them in the first and third rowing stations. That way the oars don't have to be in perfect unison.

The swivel gun mount I rigged up on the bow worked perfectly. The small gun I have is quite loud, especially with a double charge.

We had three people on the way back to the boat ramp - two rowing and one at the tiller. I could tell the difference when I was rowing by myself but it wasn't a lot harder. A half-hour row upstream wasn't enough to make me breath hard. My hands where the main thing that got tired although I could feel it later.

We did have some trouble with the oars and the oarlocks, especially with the "sweeps" - the traditionally shaped oars. I used those on the row to the boat ramp and the collars that are supposed to keep the oar from going too far up the oarlock are too small. I need to do something to make these bigger.

Other that that, everything worked fine. Now I want to try sailing it but that will have to wait a couple of weeks.

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