Friday, August 18, 2006

Schooner Isabella Launched Old School

Last Sunday in a small seaside town north of Boston called Essex, the Isabella, a privately commissioned boat built in the style of an early 1800s fishing vessel was officially launched. According to this AP article picked up by the Boston Globe, the ship was sent to sea using the traditional side launch method. A wooden skeleton, called a bilge, was built around the vessel. The craft was slowly -- very slowly -- jacked toward greased planks that lined one side of the bilge.

It's unusual in these modern times to see such close attention to historical detail, both in the commissioning and building of such a vessel as much as the follow-through on the actual launch... using a method that, though true to form is fraught with risk. It would, of course, be much safe to use the crane.

It must have something to do with Essex. Again, according to the AP article, for 350 years, Essex was a center of wooden schooner construction. More than 4,000 vessels were built here; at the height of production, builders were cranking out about one a week. And they never used a crane. Not even once ;-)

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