May 2015 - September 2016
Ships have never been built for posterity, and to find Wavertree still afloat
after over 130 years is beyond remarkable and a signal of her significance as
an iconic survivor from the Great Age of Sail. That is only half of the story,
for the balance of Wavertree’s tale is found in each of her admirers and
suitors, in her wonderful stewards, in the amazing dedicated group of staff
and volunteers of South Street Seaport Museum ̶ in other words, in all the
people who care about her and rejoice that she is in our world.
Sailing ships are large complex machines with a limited life-span of
consumptive use, and although they have inspired affection and sometimes
wonderment in the hearts of sailors and shore bound souls, it is only quite
recently that they have come to be seen as salient icons of our vanishing
maritime heritage. I am so pleased that Wavertree has navigate a course to
the good souls of South Street Seaport Museum and the citizenry of New
York. After over 130 years battling the seas of Cape Horn and navigating
through the shoals of the breaker’s torch, she has found her Fiddler’s Green
and can now rest in the tide as the Dowager Queen of the Seas that she is
and tell her story for years to come.
|Oldest known photograph of Wavertree early 1890's
(click photo for larger size)
One of those missing details is replicating the fore and main brace
boomkins or "bumkins" that supported the lead blocks for the fore and main
yard and topsail braces. This piece of gear was hinged to allow it to be
drawn aft against the hull when the ship was alongside a wharf. When
extended, it was perpendicular to the hull with a chain preventer or
backrope to counter the pull of the braces and had a cam shaped foot to act
as a failsafe if the chain parted to prevent the bumkin from ranging
forward. On the photograph of Fulwood, one of Wavertree's near sister
ships, the bumkin can be seen in its retracted position alongside the hull.
The detective work on researching and drawing up plans to recreate and
on the hull items of missing gear is something I find very rewarding and I
am very proud of the recreated bumkins and fore brace sister blocks, and
main brace pedestal blocks.
All the dedicated efforts of this Wavertree restoration has been to have a
ship with strong historic integrity or in the words of my mentor and who
discovered Wavertree in Buenos Aires, Karl Kortum, "one feels the patina
Wavertree by Oswald Brett
When the newly built yard No. 231 slid down the ways at the shipyard of
Oswald, Mordaunt & Co., Southampton in 1885, Wavertree was christened
as Southgate and was originally ordered by the famous Liverpool firm R.W
Leyland & Co., but completed as Southgate after another Liverpool ship
owner Chadwick & Pitchard, purchased her on the stocks from R.W. Leyland
& Co. In 1888 she was bought back by R.W. Leyland & Co., Liverpool, and
was renamed Wavertree.
- The name Wavertree is painted on
the shoulder of the bows rather than
above the trailboards as later in her
- The topgallant and royal braces are
rigged as whips, not with long
pendants to gun tackles with the fall
leading to deck.
- A spanker boom is rigged.
I have been asked why we are not rigging Wavertree with skysails on the main and without a spanker boom. Since we have a very high resolution glass plate
negative showing no skysails and spanker boom and only one very poor quality image of Wavertree with skysails and spanker boom, it was decided to center
the restoration and reconstruction efforts on the San Francisco image of Wavertree at anchor below Telegraph Hill. I have annotated several images
highlighting the lack of spanker boom and skysail gear in documenting our efforts.
With Wavertree’s rebirth from hulk to her halcyon days as a beautiful full rigged sailing ship, we are very fortunate to have both photographs, contemporary
paintings, and oral histories of what she or her close sister ships looked like to lead our restoration efforts. And with so much of the original ship remaining,
we are not yet faced with the ship of Theseus paradox about whether a ship that had been restored by replacing every single wooden part remained the same
ship. In all rigging replications from the initial efforts of South Street Seaport Museum to our current efforts with the rigging, we are endeavoring to replace
or replicate in as near a like fashion as is possible. When we are faced with recreating elements that contribute or define her historical significance as a large
British full rigged ship from the 1880’s we are using best practices when restoring or recreating damaged or missing features known to have been present
during a period of her career. The period chosen or the "snap shot in time" selected is the highly detailed ship portrait, shown below, made while she was
anchored in San Francisco in the early 1890’s. Please click on the below photos for a larger images.
She originally carried a spanker boom and a skysail yard over her royals on the mainmast as shown
in the earliest photograph of Wavertree. This same photo shows several variations in Wavertree’s
life as a Deepwater square-rigger than depicted in all subsequent photographic and artwork sources:
Length (including bowsprit)---------- 320 feet
Length on deck ------------------------ 263 feet
Beam ------------------------------------ 40 feet
Gross Tonnage ---------------------- 2,170 tons
Draft -------------------------------- 11- 22 feet
Sail Area --------------------------- 31,495 sq. ft.
Wavertree in the late 1880's to early 1890's in an unidentified port. (dates approximate)
Photographic research on fore braces sister blocks. These historic photos
were taken in the Falkland Islands aboard Wavertree showing the carnage
of her decks after being dismasted rounding Cape Horn in 1911.
Sister brace block stanchions newly machined and installed.
Fabricating the wooden shells for
the sister brace blocks
Sister brace blocks installed and rigged - first time
onboard since 1947, when she was converted into
a sand barge in Buenos Aires, Argentina.