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As I work on the whaleboats for my Charles W Morgan build a question has come up I cannot find an answer for in my scanty references. 

What equipment stayed in the boats when stored and lashed on the davits? At least the furled sail and mast I suspect and probably the oars lashed down. What about the line tubs with their canvas covers?

What was brought on only when preparing to launch? Implements (harpoons, lances and so on), water cask, etc.?

I'm not at all sure that having the stored boats "fully equipped " is realistic unless immediately ready to launch. 

Anyone have references?


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Hi Bruce,


I'm a member of Mystic Seaport and have visited New Bedford and the whaling museum a number of times.  As a matter of fact my next build is going to be the MS New Bedford Whaleboat with a scratch built section of the Lagoda.


Anyway, I've never seen reference to your question, but it seems to me that if you think about the nature of the endeavor, I'd bet those boats were fully outfitted the moment they got anywhere near the whaling grounds.  It was incumbent on the crew to be off the davits and on the chase soon as humanly possible.  Again, I'm no authority, but this makes sense to me.





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The boats on Lagoda have the oars, paddles, mast, sail, harpoons etc., and line tubs.  This photo is not terribly clear, but indicates the contents.  In that this model at half scale was built by men who had personal experience with whaling, I would give this arrangement serious weight.





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In the same museum where Lagoda is to be found is a model of Kate Cory by Erik A. R. Ronnberg, Jr. I've attached a crappy picture of one of the whaleboats on that model. As you can see, more or less, everything is in there and the boat is ready to go although it's still lashed to the ship.


Cheers -




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I've seen another builder doing this boat ...




Buck covers building all of the pieces in his build log here.


(Yes, that is a compass sitting next to the axe)

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Thanks to all, especially for the pictures.

I have previously built the MS New Bedford Whaleboat so I know the equipment - just not certain how much to add to the 5 inch long whaleboats of the Morgan's davits. I like the look of the Lagoda model whaleboat contents and will try my best to duplicate that in this scale - mast/sail, oars, paddles, line tubs with canvas cover, rudder in stored position, and probably the line up front that the harpoons were connected to.


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What equipment stayed in the boats when stored and lashed on the davits?


Not the line tub or not the two line tubs when the center board was introduced to the American Whale Boat.   It/they weighed too much to be left in the floor of the boat with only 1/2 inch cedar planks.  Also fixing the line in the boat was done prior to lowering the boat.  For this reason the harpoons were placed in the boat prior to launching.  I also believe that every thing that may have been a manufactured good was left out of the boat while stowed.  Things like the lance, hatchet, boat compass, provisions and the like.  Leaving such things in the boat left it exposed to the elements and potential loss.  Chasing the whale did not happen instantaneously.  There was time to make sure all proper equipment was on board.  I agree that mast, sail, rigging, paddles, oars rudder, bailer, drogue and anything made of wood or line may have been kept in the boat.  Iron and steel gets rusty and looses its edge when exposed to salt air.  You can not attach the two irons to the line until the line is in the boat so why keep them there?


My sources are Moby Dick,  In The Heart of the Sea  By Nathaniel Philbrick,  Whale Ships and Whaling by Albert Cook Church

Phil Roach

Former Director, Nautical Research Guild

Member Shipmodeler's Guild Southwest Florida

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Thank you. 

This makes great sense to me and mirrors what I originally thought about the iron goods and rust. The line tub weight is an excellent point. I have read both Moby Dick and Heart of the Sea and your post has tickled my memory about bringing goods to the boats prior to launching. 

I appreciate the reply. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

For depicting a ship/boat in a particular state, it is always useful to make up a (mental) story board. So I would ask myself questions, such as what would happen to the equipment when out at sea, what needs to be maintained/mended in between chases, what is 'personal' equipment and what belongs to the boat, how quickly would the boat need to be ready, is the ship pictured cruising the hunting grounds or on its way out/during return etc. So, during the outward and return-trips the boats would be probably empty and all equipment stored safely to avoid loss in heavy weather. If one believes Melville, harpoons were sort of 'personal' equipment and carefully maintained by its owner/user.



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  • 1 month later...

The Yankee Whaler by Clifford Ashley is a great primary source for all whaleship and whaleboat information. Ashley sailed on a whaling voyage and was also a very good writer and draftsperson and his whaling book gas everything you need, he describes everything and the book is lavishly I.lustrated with photos drawings and paintings. Also it's not a bad idea to skim Moby-Dick too as Melville also had a real-world sailing background and Moby-Dick contains a lot of whaling facts and poetic meditations on whaleboat equipment and use.




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