Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Tour of the Albert Baldwin

The Albert Baldwin at Smith Cove c. 1930
Peabody Essex Museum photo
The last and the greatest of the granite sloops, abandoned in the 1920s beside Rocky Neck in Gloucester Harbor, stayed afloat long enough to substantiate her ghost to marine historians at the close of the commercial sailing era. Using  those survey records model maker Erik Ronnberg takes us on a 'virtual tour'  of the vessel.

The quarterdeck of the Baldwin
The helmsman looks ahead over the companionway to the right.
Peabody Essex Museum photo
The helmsman stood at the wheel, looking  ahead over the crew's cabin, where he can keep an eye on the compass port in the cabin's aft side. A sliding door can be drawn across the compass. When the companionway door was shut tight the crew's quarters were reasonably watertight.

The steering wheel was connected to right hand and left hand gear threads that would cause a triangular linkage to collapse and expand, turning the rudder head.

Stern view of Erik Ronnberg's model at Mystic Seaport
She has what appears to be an iron traveler on the taff rail.  It's actually a stationary device mounted right through the transom, a patent boom jiber with links and rubber buffers to ease the shock when the sail fetched up after coming about or, God forbid, jibing in a stiff wind.

Jibing involves changing tacks with the wind coming from astern.

Catalog illustration from the Edson Manufacturing Company of Boston, c. 1895
Any Cape Ann vessel with a large mainsail had a boom jiber. Sooner or later it's time to get that sail over to the other side. That can be a pretty wild experience. You could blow out the sail, dismast the vessel, or part the main sheet. All sorts of horrible things could happen if it wasn't controlled.

Deck view of Erik Ronnberg's model at Mystic Seaport
Loaded stone sloops didn't have much freeboard. They were sometimes loaded until the gunwales were awash. The hatches weren't just battened down. They were caulked so water couldn't get into the hold. Waves could and did come right over the deck. I think they would try not to venture out into heavy weather.

The engineer didn't generally have to go below unless they were in port. If he did have to start up the boilers he could pry open a little hatch up forward. Metal guards around the hatch covers helped to keep them from being chewed to pieces by the granite.

The base of the mast
Peabody Essex Museum photo
Mechanization of winches was well underway in the 1880s, if not sooner. Beside the Baldwin's mast you see the halyard winches for raising the sail. The loading winch was located between it and the anchor windlass. Each had its own drive gears connected to the donkey engine below deck, as well as brakes for both drums. I reproduced the arrangement on my model but had to tie off the wire hauling ends to the jumbo (staysail) traveler, port and starboard, so they wouldn’t interfere with sail handling gear.

The loading boom was stowed on deck when not in use. In the photograph above you see where it was fitted into a wooden block with a knuckle. The below-deck photograph reveals a heavy reinforcing post so the heel of the loading boom doesn't come crashing through and pay its respects to the bottom.

The hold of the Baldwin from amidships, looking forward on the port side
Peabody Essex Museum photo
Just visible on the right margin of the photograph is the forward end of the centerboard trunk. The centerboard rides in a watertight box slightly off center, beside the keel, in a well-reinforced structure. Beyond that is the fore hatch and a vertical stanchion for the deck beams. Forward of that the main mast is stepped to the keelson running down the center of the vessel.

Past the mast you can see parts of the little steam engine that was used to work the windlass and the cargo winches. The boiler would be forward of that. There's a water barrel to replenish the boiler. A stack went up through the deck for the exhaust from the boiler's fire box.

They could position stone blocks within the hold on rollers. Movement of the granite ground down the planks faster than it did the trunnels, gradually pushing those wooden fasteners outward through the bottom. It was one more dimension to stay alert to.

The Albert Baldwin taking on stone
Postcard in the collection of the Sandy Bay Historical Society
She was, in my opinion, the handsomest of the lot. She had a very fine hull shape. Obviously a great deal of care was taken in fashioning her half-hull, the builder's half model. Equal care was taken in her construction, because even in her later years you see very little in signs of strain on the hull. So she must have been very substantially framed and planked.
Granite sloop America approaching port
Peabody Essex Museum photo
As you can see from the wake, this stone sloop is moving through the water pretty easily for a vessel with that kind of hull shape. The America was another of the Rockport Granite Company's vessels. I'm presuming she's approaching  Boston. She would need a tug to help her in the rest of the way to the pier. There were usually lookouts posted who could keep an eye on these things. The Boston Towboat Company was right on the end of T Wharf, up on the second floor with a pretty good view of the Harbor. They had a signal mast to alert a tug coming in having finished a tow.

Boston from the end of T Wharf
Photo from W. H. Bunting, Portrait of a Port
The tug boats completed the maneuverings of the granite carriers into the warren of wharves where the vessels could discharge their freight to the bustling world of commerce that awaited Cape Ann's building stone.
* * *
Yesterday a last-minute discovery by Erik validated his assertion that one can identify the Baldwin's color scheme from a mile away.  While perusing a volume of naval history he found this image of an important-looking Albert Baldwin riding high in the water, meaning unburdened of granite, no doubt on a holiday cruise. 
The Albert Baldwin greeting the U. S. Navy's Great White Fleet
off Sandy Bay harbor c. 1905
Library of Congress photo.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Modeling the Albert Baldwin

An early view of the Albert Baldwin overwintering on the Annisquam River1
Photograph courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Howard Chapelle's article1 on "Rockport Granite Sloops"  in the July, 1931 issue of The Mariner, presenting drawings and photographs of the Albert Baldwin, precipitated great interest within the ship modeling community. At least one reader set out in pursuit of her still tangible lines.

The Baldwin in Smith Cove, Rocky Neck c. 1930
Photograph courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Having only the plan and side elevation of [the steam winch and windlass] I decided to go to Gloucester and photograph the necessary details. My first trip was rather unsuccessful for the simple reason that I had neglected to take into account that there is a tide....The boat was sitting serenely in the mud, and I very nearly did the same, though not serenely, while trying to get as close as possible for details of the bowsprit and rigging. My second trip was better, in that I got aboard, but somebody had walked off with the very thing I had come for, the winch.2 

Modeler/author A. Hutton Vignoles published the fruits of his quest two years after Chapelle in The Mariner.

The first Albert Baldwin model, 1933 by A. Hutton Vignoles2
Noted carver Percy Ashley caught the Baldwin spirit about this time. He produced a model that eventually came into the collection of the Cape Ann Historical Association in 1954.

The reception of the Percy model occasioned a retrospective newspaper article
Gloucester Daily Times, February 25, 1954
Captain Percy's model is on display today at the Cape Ann Museum, along with one contributed by local carver Bill Niemi. All this interest stimulated Gloucester ship's rigger Erik Ronnberg, Sr. to take up the motif. His son Erik Jr. was close at hand.
     My father built his first model of the Albert Baldwin back in 1954 or so. I was ten years old at the time. He owned it a long time before he sold it. I used to open up the hatch covers to investigate what was going on underneath. That was my secret piggy bank for a few years until my father caught me messing around with it. I loved that model.
Erik Ronnberg Sr. at the dining room table c. 1954
     Every evening back in the '50s, when the dining room table was cleared off, out came the shipyard. That was the best time of the day as far as I was concerned. If the job my father was working on happened to be particularly boring, my mother would come and read to him. I'd be there puttering away quietly. At about five years old my father handed me a block of balsa wood and rasp and encouraged me to go to it.

During his college years Erik Jr. took on his first "serious" scratch-built model, the Albert Baldwin, using the same Chapelle plans that his father had. As it progressed his school interest waned. The project in its incomplete stage landed him a job at the renowned industrial model-making firm Atkins & Merrill in Sudbury "where I got a real education."
     I took my mostly-finished model of the Albert Baldwin down to Mystic Seaport to see if they had any information that I could use for further detailing. At that time John Leavitt was Curator Emeritus. I left it in his office and came back later to see him. He wanted to know, "Is this model for sale?" I said, "Yes, sure!" "How much? $1,500? $2,500?" I chose the more modest of the two figures, never having gotten more than $100 for a model before that. He said, "Well finish it up and bring it here and I'll see if I can find one of our trustees to fund the acquisition.

Model of the granite sloop Albert Baldwin
Erik A. R. Ronnberg, Jr.
In the collection of the Mystic Seaport Museum.
Achieving realism in miniature requires diligence in research and execution. Erik discovered important photographs at the Peabody Essex Museum. One taken by a friend of the skipper from the mast crosstrees during her active years showed additional deck details.

The Baldwin from aloft
Photograph courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Further digging turned up a catalog illustrating the Baldwin's windlass along with a product endorsement from her skipper:
Catalog of the American Ship Windlass Company c. 1895
 The detailed drawing enabled Erik to fabricate this feature with precision at a scale of one quarter-inch to the foot using machinery at Atkins & Merrill.
The Albert Baldwin moored at the Hyatt's wharf, Annisquam
Photograph from The Mariners Museum, Newport News VA,
courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
Research and imagination bring the model maker into the spheres of the shipyard and of the mariner as he reconstructs their world. Looking at the Baldwin's hull Erik analyzes every detail appreciatively. On the upper rim of the hull he notes "the wales are usually thicker planks that follow the shear line below the deck level. They go down several strakes. They add very materially to the longitudinal strength of the hull."

This structuring figures into the painting scheme. "On the bottom it was copper paint, then black rails with a white stripe. Between the waterline and the wales the hull was white leaded. The white lead made sense. It was probably the toughest paint around for protecting wood. In any event it gave her a very distinctive appearance. You can usually spot her at about a mile in most of the photographs."
Rigging at the juncture of the main mast and top mast
Erik Ronnberg's model of the Albert Baldwin
High above the deck the wind-harnessing features converge in a wonder of complexity compounded by the stone-lifting gear, a tribute to engineering and seamanship. The excellence of the reproduction at an intimate scale fosters admiration for the chain of tradesmen who could produce and work such a vessel in an earlier time. The model transmits a sensual experience that goes beyond information into art for appreciative museum visitors.
1. E. D. Walen and Howard J. Chapelle, "Rockport Granite Sloops," The Mariner: The Quarterly Journal of the Ship Model Society of Rhode Island, April 1931.
2. A. Hutton Vignoles, "Model of the Granite Sloop Albert Baldwin," The Mariner, July 1933
3. Photographs otherwise unattributed have been supplied by Erik Ronnberg. Italicized passages are from interviews with Erik.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Albert Baldwin

"The design of granite sloops varied....the height of the design was reached in the Albert Baldwin, built in 1890, and she was the Queen, although a state of Mainer almost took her title. It is said that when was loaded a chip could be thrown astern and it would not follow her."
Howard Chapelle1

The Albert Baldwin, Aug 15, 1896
Nathaniel L. Stebbins photographic collection
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities
When naval architect Howard Chapelle came across the Albert Baldwin about 1930 after her sailing days were over he did have the opportunity to meet the sloop's one and only skipper, Howard Poland of Bay View. Undoubtedly it was Poland who provided that testament to the Baldwin's elegance, that her streamlined hull created so little turbulence in its wake that a chip of wood floated directly away.

Howard Poland had previously captained the sloop William P. Hunt for the Cape Ann Granite Company, a vessel also considered 'smart and able' until he "pulled the chain plates right out of her in a sail carrying contest." [That is, where the mast shrouds attached to the sides of the hull.] Company owner Colonel Jonas H. French dispatched Captain Poland to the Tarr & James Shipyard in Essex to commission a replacement that might improve on its predecessor. Poland obtained and brought with him the Hunt's original half-model, the carved half hull by which designers work out and convey their nautical ideas and sometimes their only working guide for the builders. They made her "longer and having an easier run."1
The Albert Baldwin loaded with granite at Bay View wharf
Poland family photograph, Sandy Bay Historical Society
When the assets of Cape Ann Granite were acquired by the Rockport Granite Company in 1893 the Baldwin and Captain Poland went along to complete their careers together, the equivalent of 'high-liners' in the fishing fleet. A note on the photograph below indicates they stayed in service until 1921, when he was seventy-two years old.

The Baldwin building the breakwater for the Cape Cod Canal, 1910
Poland family photograph, Sandy Bay Historical Society
Captain William Howard Poland2
With up to 200 tons of granite aboard the Baldwin required a massive sail plan to push semi-submerged through the water. It carried over 3,000 square yards of canvas. It's mainsail at 1,100 square yards, crafted at D. F. Harris in Gloucester, was the largest of any type stitched in these lofts or in Boston.3 The main mast towered to 90 feet, the topmast another 43 feet. The boom was 82 feet long and the gaff supporting the top edge of the sail 43 feet. Stem to stern she measured 86 feet.

For most of a decade after their joint service Captain Poland made daily visits to the Baldwin tied to the Hyatt's wharf at Goose Cove, Annisquam. The granite company sold the vessel to parties who moved it in the 1920s to Smith Cove in East Gloucester where they fancied converting it to a floating restaurant. Fine dining never materialized.

Postcard courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Society
The clipper bow and burly planking remained a public spectacle when the ship was abandoned off Rocky Neck. The last and the finest of the granite sloops, and unaltered, she came to the attention of a survey team of the Marine Research Society which recorded her lines and stimulated the interest of historian Howard Chapelle, who published comprehensive photographs and drawings in 1931.1

The Albert Baldwin grounded out at low tide, Rocky Neck4
Peabody Essex Museum photo
Not long afterward Chapelle was appointed the New England regional director of the Historic America Merchant Marine Survey, a WPA agency employing naval architects and draftsmen during the Depression. "Without them a lot of historic vessel designs would have disappeared, especially as half-models wound up in the office stove."4 Work crews of another useful branch of the WPA dismantled the Baldwin and other derelicts abandoned in harbor channels.

This legacy of drawings and photographs has provided the basis of accuracy for the many ship models fashioned of the Albert Baldwin in later years, which we will see in the following essay. As the Queen of the granite sloops she caught the eye of admirers in her working day and her afterlife.

1. E. D. Walen and Howard J. Chapelle, "Rockport Granite Sloops," The Mariner: The Quarterly Journal of the Ship Model Society of Rhode Island, April 1931.
2. Photo from Carolyn and Jim Thompson, Cape Ann in Stereo Views, Images of America series, 2000.
3. "Rockport's Old Salts Still Tell Thrilling Yarns of Stone Sloops" Boston Sunday Post, April 8, 1945.
4. " Here's the Baldwin as she looked in the Thirties over at Rocky Neck. It's a view of the transom showing the lettering on her stern, Albert Baldwin in an arch over her hail, Gloucester. There's some fancy painted scroll work on each end of the name and the hail. It's remarkable that that lettering is in as good condition as you see it. A ship carver probably carved in the letter outlines so that whoever painted in the names would have some sort of guide to follow. That's a very handsome piece of stern lettering and scrollwork." -- Erik Ronnberg, Cape Ann Museum.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Winter Moods, Halibut Point

Night-gathered waters
to air and shore.

A vast dream of alchemy
a morning.

Formative moments
possibilities for the day.

A coastline
changes state
across the quarry.

An ice chorus
crackles whale songs
from a netherworld.

The winter diva
into mysteries.

A shroud,
a wave,
a whimsical parting.

An ephemeral caress
at daylight.

Arctic repertoire
favored stones.

Island floats
night re-gathers
creation sequesters.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Granite Sloops

An assortment of sailing vessels, early 1850s
A detail of the painting Freshwater Cove from Dolliver's Neck
Fitz Henry Lane1
It is gratifying to discover historical documentation presented vividly by a masterful painter. Some of the nautical traffic in this scene on the rim of Gloucester Harbor relates to a small quarrying operation where the derrick rises from the hill to the left. The sloop at the pier waits to be loaded with stone, spars secured off to the side. 2

 The gaff-rigged sloop at the center of the cove rides low in the water, perhaps laden with a granite delivery for the City waterfront. One can't help wondering whether it was destined for Fitz Henry Lane's own house construction called The Stone Jug in present-day Gloucester.

 The sloop out-sizes the schooner it approaches. Each of these vessels could add vertical reach by lofting a topsail above its four-sided mainsail, a way of dividing up the canvas to add flexibility to the sailing plan and to make the bulk more manageable in a breeze. The jib follows its stay line forward to the tip of the bowsprit.

The smaller sloop to the left can be rigged with a one-piece mainsail to the top of the mast and a proportional jib. On the near bank a catboat's single sail lies furled as the crew readies the boat to land or depart.
Granite sloop, Pigeon Cove Harbor
John S. E. Rogers stereograph
Cape Ann Museum
Sturdily built sloops ferried quarry products to markets around the Massachusetts Bay in the nineteenth century. The loading boom on this sloop at a Pigeon Cove wharf is just distinguishable in line with the mast while the main boom sits triced up out of its way during cargo handling. The hold will be filled with paving stones piled on the wharf.
Larger blocks may be set on the deck as in the illustration by John F. Leavitt, who shipped aboard these vessels as a youth during the twilight years of the coastal trade and went on to noteworthy service as the Curator of the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut.3

Sloop America at the Rockport Granite Company wharf
Sandy Bay Historical Society
The granite sloops could be rigged to carry an immense amount of sail to push their semi-submerged hulls through the water. With that much ballast they weren't inclined to capsize. Friendly waterfront competition laced these  recollections gathered by a navigator-turned-journalist in 1924: 4

The America was a notably fast sailer and was a product of one of the old Salisbury shipyards, in the year 1869. Her tonnage was 105.31 gross. The owner was Captain Jeremiah Pettingill.
Sloop America, Captain Jerry Pettingill and crew
Sandy Bay Historical Society
The old sloops carried a crew of four or five men. The huge mainsails were hard to hoist and Addison Haskell, who is one of the last of the old timers who used to go as hand, recalls welcoming the hoisting engine that was first installed in the sloop John Brooks, of Bay View. The Hard Chance next had a hoister, then the New Era and the Belle of Cape Ann.

Sloop America  moored among schooners and barges, Granite Pier
Sandy Bay Historical Society
Captain Prescott Mitchell delights in telling how he pelted his old sloop to the windward, discharged a large cargo of granite at Deer Island and was back at his home port in thirteen hours. He also made round trips to Newburyport, and to ports in Maine, in remarkably short time.

 The best years of these  men's careers lay in the decades to either side of the turn of the century. By 1924 Prescott Mitchell had come ashore to run a quarry hoisting engine.  His sloop Active had enlivened the Gloucester Daily Times in its day.
      November 2, 1891. Sloop Active left Lanesville Monday at 11 am with a freight of rough stone for the Rockport breakwater. The sloop first went to Rockport to have her marks taken and then went out and dropped her freight of stone and returned to Rockport at 4 o'clock pm to have her marks again taken. The sloop arrived at Lanesville Tuesday forenoon and was loaded with paving by the Lanesville granite company and sailed about noon for Boston.

      September 4, 1895. One of the crew of the sloop Active claims that last week they made the quickest trip on record. They sailed from Lanesville for Boston with a freight of cellar stone, and passed through seven bridges, discharged that freight and arrived back to Lanesville, having been 18 hours on the trip.
"Steam lighter" off Breakwater Quarry, Folly Point c. 1910
Cape Ann Museum, Foster Collection
A new generation of boats boasted engines and steel hulls to out-perform the sailing fleet but they surely fell short in the affection of their crews. Before the railroad and the steam lighters crowded the old sloop out of the business, a few schooners were used at Rockport. But never did they begin to compare, in point of numbers, with the single-masted vessel.4

Schooners held a stake as large commercial vessels for another generation, adopting auxiliary engines and the marginal areas of cargo transport, often tethered to a tow boat. The more economical sloops, superior sailors close to the wind, retained preeminence as spacious racing craft and spawned a popular segment of yachting design. 

1. Reprinted from John Wilmerding's Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, 1980. The painting is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
2. Details of the painting are elucidated by Erik Ronnberg in an essay within Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, "Imagery and Types of Vessels".
3. John F. Leavitt, Wake of the Coasters, 1970.
4. "One Survivor of the Famous Fleet Cape Ann Stone Sloops,"  an article from an unidentified 1924 Boston newspaper by Captain Charlton Smith in the files of the Annisquam Historical Society.
5. Howard Chapelle, The History of American Sailing Ships, 1935.