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.

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