Seal Cove Day Six – Profile drawings and a small boat in the woods

Baylus Brooks continued to explore the local historical resources by visiting Mt. Desert Island Historical Society and the William O. Sawtelle Curatorial Center. Franklin and Crista led teams of volunteers and continued the profile drawings of the frames on the Seal Cove Shipwreck.

While standing on the wreck in Seal Cove, a keen-eyed observer can gaze south and on clear days, may be able to pick out amongst the brambles and brush of the surrounding forest a vague outline of another decaying vessel. Today, after obtaining the permission of the landowners, I led a team across the way to record this quickly decomposing vessel.

            My fellow students and I learned in graduate school how to record small boats. Unfortunately, we accomplished much of that recording under limited constraints. Unlike graduate school, however, we improvised the methods for the recording of this vessel under very different circumstances. For example, I had not been able to walk around or closely observe the vessel. I was not able to move, plumb, or otherwise disturb it even though it was laying on one side and lacking structural support, and I only had a few hours to prep and only one day to record. Despite these hardships, my team accomplished most of our goals.

            We started the recording by creating a scantlings list which is essentially an inventory of every observable component of the vessel with their measurements, drawings, and photographs. As anyone who has ever recorded a vessel knows, creating this catalog is no easy task. To record a simple deck beam actually requires numerous additional measurements beyond the simple dimensions. The deck beams are notched, chamfered, and fastened. Using gauges, calipers, and tapes, the volunteers painstakingly sketched and recorded these minute details.

            After spending more than half the day recording the scantlings, the group switched gears and set up perpendicular posts at the forward and aft ends of the vessel with a leveled baseline running between them. This enabled us to take offset measurements of the shape of the craft. To accomplish this task we used a vertical staff (method three, for the D.W. Dillion fanatics out there). By measuring the location of the staff along the baseline, and while keeping it plumb, the group took measurements off the line to the rod. Additionally, we recorded the height of the various vessel components (chine, outer hull, rub rail, etc.) and their distances to the rod. We repeated this process along the length of the intact portion of the vessel at four stations to capture pertinent information. This data may make it possible to partially reconstruct sections of the boat.

Other evidence from the fasteners made it clear that this vessel was modern in origins, but probably locally built, and likely a pleasure sailing craft that had undergone some repairs. Even though we did not record the small boat under ideal conditions, the fact that the boat is rapidly disappearing made the exercise worthwhile. Every wreck site represents a new learning experience and this one proved the axiom true. I learned how to adapt methods designed for museums to practical field environments and the other volunteers learned more about the components of a wooden boat. 

—Steve Dilk