Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Friendship Sloop Burgee


Anyone familiar with Friendship Sloops is familiar with its burgee  However, less familiar is why it is adorned with what appears to be a vine of spade-like leaves - an odd symbol for a fishing sloop.  So, I wanted to know why the burgee sported this particular design, what leaf it was and why that leaf? 

What I found out was interesting: No one knows. 

There is nothing about the origin of the burgee in any of the Society's publications:  It's a Friendship, Enduring Friendships, and the most recent publication Lasting Friendships.

Here's what we do know: The Constitution of the Friendship Sloop Society (FSS) dictates: "The burgee of the Society shall be a pennant with the fly one an one-half times the hoist, consisting of a black leaf design on a white field with a red boarder." (Article VIII).

The Society's annual yearbook for 1967 comes a bit closer to the mark:
The leaf pattern on the pennant is derived from the original trailboards of the Friendship Sloops. So far as we can discover, all the Morse, McClains, Carters and other original builders, and even the present day builders have used this vine design on their trailboards . . . .

Carvings of vines or scrollwork on trailboards make sense. A trailboard is long and thin and lends itself to that sort of design. However, arabesques of vines on trailboards are not new - they predate Friendship Sloops by at least a century.

In his book Figureheads and Ship Carving, Michael Stammers writes,
[From the 1790's] the trailboards . . .took on an important role. It began carrying more carvings from the base of the figurehead to the main parts of the hull. This had the pleasing effect of visually integrating the figurehead with the rest of the hull. The usual motif was some kind of foliage such as laurels as a symbol of victory, oak leaves as a symbol of strength, acanthus and thistle as symbols of life, mortality and punishment or vine leaves with symbols of grapes as symbols of plenty. These leaf forms were frequently carved in Rococo style with C and S shapes, diverging leaves and elongated stems.
It is no secret that the clipper bow of the Friendship was patterned after the Gloucester fishing schooners that patterned their bows after clipper ships, etc. It follows then, that the makers of Friendships were simply adorning their trailboards with a design as had been done for years.


Grape Leaf

Here is where the 1967 FSS yearbook fails us. Regarding the type of leaf/vine it notes:  "[M]uch research has not turned up the reason for the vine. Our delving into the use of this particular pattern has only served to produce a discussion as to whether this is a vine or grape leaf design, but nothing as to the origin."

Olive Leaf
In Roger Duncan's book, Friendship Sloops, he writes: "[E]arly in the [Friendship Sloop] Society's existence, a burgee was designed and distributed among members. It is a white pennant with a red border on which in black is the traditional olive leaf design used on the trail boards of Morse boats." (emphasis added)

Cherry Blossom

Last, in The Classic Boat, the editors at Time-Life chronicled the restoration of Dictator (see earlier post 1904 Dictator Model, 2/28/14). In it, they noted that, "the trailboards were carved by the wife of the builder, Robert McClain, their design an arabesque of red cherries, [which] was his trademark."

So, Olives? Grapes? or Cherries? Which is it?  That answer lies deep in still waters and is likely to remain there. However, the notion that there ever was an answer doesn't bear up when one considers the origin of the sloop and the conventions of the day.

First, with the exception of the Dictator model, this is not a one class design. There never was a defined set of specs for what makes a Friendship a Friendship. If the original builders didn't try to agree on overall dimensions and specs, it strains credibility that they would agree that all Friendships "shall have a vine of grapes (or whatever) adorning their trailboards." Second, these were fishing boats - not a lot of mucking about with ornate scroll work. Build 'em, Splash 'em, Fish 'em, Sell 'em.

It seems more likely that each builder did what they wanted to do - or maybe had their own signature design as Time-Life suggests of McClain.

Trailboard Design - Desiree

What I can write is that the trailboard for Desiree appears to be ivy which, I warily point out, also appears to be the closest match to the burgee . 

And one internet source had this to say about the meaning of ivy:

The Celtic meaning of the ivy deals with connections and friendships because of its propensity to interweave in growth. Ever furrowing and intertwining, the ivy is an example of the twists and turns our friendships take - but also a testimony to the long-lasting connections and bonds we form with our friends that last over the years. 

Hmmmm, "Lasting Friendships."  What a good name for a book.
Buy yours today from

1.  I am indebted to John Wojcik of the FSS for hunting down the references to the origin of the burgee design in the FSS publications. 
2. Lasting Friendships: A Century of Friendship Sloops, TBR Walsh & Ralph Stanley, Friendship Sloop Society (2014)
3. Friendship Sloops, Roger Duncan, International Marine (1985)
4. It's a Friendship, Herald Jones, Friendship Sloop Society (1965)
5. Friendship Sloop Society Annual Yearbook, Friendship Sloop Society (1967)
6. Figureheads and Ship Carvings, Michael Stammers, Naval Institute Press (2005)
7. The Classic Boat, Time-Life (1977)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Critters in the Mast - Plan D

In my last post, I noted that Plans A thru C to remove acorns, fur and other stuff from my critter-condo mast failed. Plan D was the "nuclear option," namely to remove select staves of the mast. This provided access to the detritus as well as gave room to remove the wiring that was threaded up through the middle.

Notwithstanding the critters problem, it was clear that we would have to do this in a couple of spots anyway as the wood and seams in places were compromised by age or rot.

As shown on the plan to the left, the mast is constructed much like a wooden barrel. Trapazoidal sections of Sitka Spruce are glued together along a 37' span (many are scarfed to get the needed length), leaving the middle hollow.

Routing jig

Aaron routing out a stave
In order to give the router a straight edge on a rounded mast, we set up a jig out of scrap plywood. By using straps to secure it to the mast, it made it easy to line the edge of the jig up with a particular seam. To move to another seam, just loosen the straps and roll the mast over on the saw horses and re-align. The straps were made tight by means of a Spanish Windlass. Simple, quick, easy. 

In all, we routed out 4 sections - each about 7 feet long and each from different places around the mast. Only one stave at a time. We wanted to avoid having the mast spring open like a desert bloom after the rainy season and the way to do this was to make sure each section removed was not near any other removed section. 

And then . . . . more critters !


As we were routing out a particularly punky looking section at the top of the mast, we hit a colony of Carpenter Ants. Camponotus Pennsylvanicus. These bastards will chew through wood like green corn goes through the new maid. The nasty little brutes burrow into wood - generally soft woods like pine (or, in this case spruce) or wherever there is rot.  They are the devils own spawn to be sure and will cause you to have to rebuild the whole side of your house if you don't catch them early (trust me on that one).

Anyway, this picture doesn't do it justice; when we first hit the colony, the ants just erupted from the wood like lava. In this section, there was nothing for it but to take out two consecutive staves and we were fortunate that the colony didn't go beyond that.

The Holy Top Mast 

You hate to do it, but the only thing you can do is cut back to good wood and repair from there. I have two 8 foot, 2 x 6 planks of Sitka Spruce from a local lumber yard and we will use those to create scarfs to fill these sections.

Also, there are some seams where the epoxy has left some small openings so those will need to be refilled and coated.

Last, before we close it up tight, I will install two new cables to service the masthead light and other electronics and a new VHF coaxial.

And more important than all of that, before this is laid up for the winter, I will plug up the ends to dissuade members of the animal world (genus: Painus Intheassus) from infesting my mast.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Critters in your Mast

Desiree has four very nice spars. The mast, gaff and boom are all Sitka Spruce.  The bowsprit is Douglas Fir.  The mast is built as a barrel: long staves of spruce around an empty core. Up through the middle, the wires for lights and VHF are threaded.

These spars sat for 15 years in a back yard. While they were on supports and covered, the holes in the top and bottom of the mast were not. You guessed it. Some critter or critters made there home there.

Cracks in upper mast
I first realized it when we put the mast on some sawhorses to begin it's reconditioning. At that point, my biggest concern was some splitting at a seam at the top of the mast and a small, punky area of wood nearby (see photo at right). However, as I rolled the mast over to check other seams, I could hear acorns and stuff rolling around inside. It sounded like the cage the caller uses to mix up the numbers at a bingo game.

So, while the cracks still have my undivided attention, I was curious about how much stuff was inside the mast, and how to get it out.

Andrew performing a mast enema
Andrew Haley runs our boat yard and if there's anything about boats he doesn't know, it ain't worth knowing. Our first solution was to hoist the mast on the boom truck and use gravity to drop the acorns out.

This didn't work.

Plan B was to snake a batten up the hole and that met with more success, but was limited to the length of the batten which was nowhere near the 36 feet of the mast.

Plan C was to use a plumbing snake. Again, some success but length was still a problem.

Acorns, fur, rope and other shhh. . . stuff. 

What was amusing was the amount of stuff that came out: acorns, acorn dust, fur, rope and all kinds of detritus. And it kept coming, and coming, and coming.

When we were done, we had a pile of critter detritus on the ground and still had stuff in the mast.

Why do critters chew wires? really.

Some of the seams need attention too so Plan D is probably to remove sections of a stave (or staves) and rout out any more crap in the mast, I will remove the wires as well. I was going to replace the wires anyway, but there is no question now. For reasons that defy logic, critters like to gnaw on wires (see photo) and these appear to have been the central dish at their thanksgiving day feast.

So, the old lesson learned is to close off any openings when putting boats up for the winter.  Failure to do so may result in small, furry stowaways that will always cause problems - the size of which are inversely proportional to the stowaways themselves.