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Good Morning,

A couple of questions about whaleboats. I'm working on the boats for my Charles W. Morgan. I believe the best position for the rudders is the "stowed" position, which the plans indicate as an option and it appears to me that there is a small amount of rigging employed to hold them in place. The plans are a bit sketchy on this detail. Can anyone direct me to a reference to see how best to do this? I'm having trouble finding a clear indication. Build logs that I have found for the CWM are not particularly clear in this area and I have looked at the instructions on line for the MS whaleboat, but there are not overly clear either. (Perhaps the plans for this kit might be.) The scale of course is the 1:64 of the CWM, not the 1:16 of the whaleboat kit, so it probably can't be 100% accurate, but I would like it to at least be leaning toward the accurate side of things.


The other question is one of the equipment for the whaleboats. How much of the equipment (oars, harpoons, hooks etc) would have been in the boats while they are mounted on the davits? Most build logs show plenty of equipment, as does the photo that MS provides, but in reality, would any of it actually have been there? Maybe it was, but it was tied down? I don't know. I realize from a modeling perspective, I can do whatever I want, but I'm just curious what opinions are on where that equipment might actually have been when the boats were suspended from the davits.


Many thanks,


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I remember when I built the CWM and put the rudders inside the boat, three harpoons, ropes and six oars, a bucket, a small flag on its post to mark the dead whales.. And I did it in the six boats, of course this in the modeller to detail even more equipment.

As to how the rudder was secured a clue could be the AL kit.





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Do you have the book, The Whaleboat, by Ansel? https://store.mysticseaport.org/the-whaleboat-a-study-of-design-construction-and-use-from-1850-to-2014.html That is the authoritative resource on whaleboats.


My research on whaleboats on the Morgan revealed that the rudders were stowed lashed to the port side of the boats when not in use. The drawing above shows how the rudders were lashed, fastened between the lower pintle and the stock and to two cleats on the rail. (Note that the photo on the box cover picture above shows the tiller mounted in the hung rudder and sticking up like a sore thumb. The tiller would have been removed from the stock and stowed aboard. No seaman in his right mind would have stowed a rudder with the tiller inserted in the stock. This detail on the box cover betrays an all too common lack of basic seamanship skills and knowledge, a common failing of kit manufacturers and model builders.) Stowing the rudder outboard kept the rudder out of the whaleboat, which was extremely crowded with gear and crew as it was. The rudder would only be shipped when the mast was raised and sail set. Under oars, the steering oar was used.


The each boats' gear was stowed in each boat in a particular place as also shown in the book mentioned when the ship was on the whaling grounds so that all was in readiness for the quickest launch when a whale was sighted except for the line buckets. The line buckets were stowed against the bulwarks on the waterways next to each boat when on the whaling grounds, ready to be stowed immediately before the boat was lowered. This was to relieve the boats and davits of the weight of the line buckets when the boats were simply hanging in the davits. At sea in transit to the whaling grounds, the boats' gear would be stowed aboard the vessel to keep it out of the weather. Spare gear, particularly long stuff like oars, harpoons, lances, and the like, was stowed hung beneath the boat skids.


Note that the period in which the Morgan is modeled is important not only to the accurate portrayal of the ship, but also to the accurate portrayal of her whaleboats. As one will learn reading The Whaleboat, the design of the American whaleboat changed over time, in part to accommodate changes in the species of whale they hunted. It was not until around 1857 or so that the centerboard came into use. Before then, the whaleboats carried masts and sails, but no centerboard because the sails were only employed when running downwind over a distance when returning to the ship.  The paddles were used when the whaleboat closed in on its quarry because the paddles were quieter than the oars and less likely to spook the whales. In the mid-1850's, when the sperm whales began to be hunted, they were more difficult to approach, so the whalers learned to sail up to a pod of whales in relative silence rather than row or paddle. The centerboard came into use to permit more efficient sailing to windward when the whales had to be approached from that direction under sail. If a Morgan model depicts her as launched with her ship rig in 1841, her whaleboats would not have had centerboards and the planking would have been as employed at that time. In later times, as the Ansels' book explains, the planking also changed. (Combinations of clinker and carvel planking changed, again for the purpose of building a quieter boat to better approach the quarry.) American whaleboats were stock designs and lasted but a short while in use. Often, they were shot after one voyage, so the design changes are very closely matched with the time period. The whaling ships generally carried newly built boats on each voyage. These picky details risk being overlooked in some of the Morgan kits.


If you don't have The Whaleboat, get a copy. (About $25 in paperback.) I would rely on that before I'd rely on any plans in a kit.



Edited by Bob Cleek
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  • 4 weeks later...

    The best display that I ever came across of a whaleboat was this 48" long cased model in the Whalers Museum on Maui while there in 2011.  It was an example of a 36' long later day boat with a centerboard and carvel planking.  This particular boat  in the exhibit was of the type used to hunt whales from shore so I was not sure if there were differences between this and the boats carried on ships.  Anyway, I thought that it was a rather unique way to display the model with a mirror in the back to allow viewing it from both sides. 

    They also had a full size replica on display outside, but the equipment was not aboard and I was not able to find any photos of it anyway.  Standing beside it though, I thought that it was a little unnerving to think of going out in the open ocean to hunt these huge whales in such a small boat with so little free board.  I was reminded of when sheriff Brodie in Jaws gets a close up and personal view of the shark and says "I think we need a bigger boat!" :stunned:





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  • 1 year later...

I second Bobs recommendation for Ansel’s book.  I also recommend “To Build a Whaleboat” by Eric Ronnberg,  and “Whaleships and Whaling” by Albert Church.  


Church’s book is especially interesting as he either furnished cameras to whaling crews, sailed himself, or both; I don’t remember which.  The result is a remarkable series of photos detailing the entire whaling process.  The pictures show whaling under sail during its final  days.  


Ronnberg’s book describes whaleboats from an earlier period, mid Nineteenth Century.  It includes both history and construction of the Model Shipways kit.   If buying the kit, see if it is included.  Ronnberg’s book includes many details not covered by Church or Ansel.  He has spent a lifetime researching the New England fishing and whaling industries.  



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