17th & 18th century merchant ship working replica research project

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1500 – 1830 17th & 18th century merchant ship working replica research project

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  • #10135
    Phillip Reid
    Participant

      I am in the final research phase of a dissertation in maritime history currently titled “Merchant Ship Technology and the Development of the British Atlantic Empire, 1600-1800” at Memorial University of Newfoundland. One of the key research strategies is to gather the experiences and opinions of experienced designers, shipwrights, and operators of working period replicas. I have had significant input on that by now, but I could certainly use more, and I would love to have some from the UK which I currently don’t. I am looking most of all for insights into the decision-making process of design, comparison and contrast to what we know of the originals, and insights into vessel performance that can help us understand how the original technology worked and why it might have evolved more or less rapidly in certain ways at certain times during the overall period.

      Something specific I’d love to get some information on is the research strategy of Rodney Warrington-Smyth at the Falmouth Boat Co. in Cornwall who designed the replica Nonsuch in the late 60s for the Hudson’s Bay Company (the replica is now in the Manitoba Museum). The Museum does not have any material from the design process and my attempt to contact the Falmouth Boat Co. didn’t get me anywhere. I know he used the staff and resources of the NMM but it would be great to know something about his decision-making process to compare it to others then and now.

      Phillip Reid
      PhD student (ABD)
      Dept. of History
      Memorial University of Newfoundland
      St. John’s NL Canada

      #10150
      Frank Scott
      Participant

        I am not sure what sources you have consulted, but Laird Rankin, The Nonsuch (Buffalo & London, 1970) has a fair amount on the background to her construction, including the inevitable compromises. Some issues are minor, such as the use of flat rather than round seaming for the sails, but they all add up. As far as I know the master, the highly experienced Captain Adrian Small, is still around, although in his 80s. I assume that you have consulted the Hudson’s Bay Company, whose archives must contain much relating to the construction of the vessel.

        I would also recommend Colin Mudie, Sailing Ships: Designs & Re-creations of great sailing ships from ancient Greece to the present (London, 2000), for discussion by an eminent naval architect not only of his own designs (both replica & sail training), but of other vessels.

        Frank Scott

        #19006
        Alex Mod
        Participant

          Hello!
          At a shipbuilding forum, the historical accuracy of a copy of Nonsuch is being questioned. I believe that the replica is built exactly according to the plans of the same type ships of that period. Please tell me, are all the lines and elements in the figure completely reliable?

          Another question. Usually at the stern of the ship in this place (red line) there was a molding. Is this permissible?

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          #19017
          Alex Mod
          Participant

            Replica photo (red line)

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            #19019
            Frank Scott
            Participant

              Not sure what you mean by ‘completely reliable’. As is the case with almost all ‘replicas’, Nonsuch is a best guess representation including some compromises to allow it to operate in the modern world (auxiliary engine, electric navigation lights) and some other anachronisms (such as sails that were produced on power looms resulting in much tighter & stronger cloth than that of 17th Century, and stitched together with another later innovation, flat seams).
              Laird Rankin, The Nonsuch (Toronto/Vancouver, 1974) makes it clear that every effort was made to research the design. However, in the words of one of those involved “In spite of having to write and answer hundreds of letters, we gained virtually no authentic gen on the Nonsuch except her dimensions”.

              #19027
              Alex Mod
              Participant

                Google Translate.
                Thank you Frank!
                From a sufficiently large number I will describe several basic elements that are criticized.
                1. Lack of molding and incorrect installation of planking boards (red lines in the photo)
                2.According to a person who considers himself an expert, steps on both sides (indicated by green arrows) should have the same height, the same shape and the same decor. The expert refers to the regulation. The skeptic did not show the rules. My searches for googling Google didn’t work.
                3. Element 1 (red) must lie on or adjacent to element 2 (blue). Therefore, element 2 should pass below.

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                #19030
                Frank Scott
                Participant

                  To be honest who knows? We have no lines plan, no ship model, no accurate contemporary pictures, no surviving artefacts, etc. The list of matters that are ‘not quite correct’ must be quite long. For example, in addition to points that I have already made:
                  Some power tools would have been used in construction – The rope would have been produced by power driven machinery (much stronger than original, even though natural fibre) – extra lead keel to improve stability, etc., etc.
                  The aforementioned book notes that the specifications ran to 35 pages & I would expect a copy to have been retained by The Hudson Bay Company along with a mass of other correspondence.
                  I cannot stress too much that the term ‘replica’ is highly misleading for such vessels as the Nonsuch,. It is a representation.

                  #19031
                  Alex Mod
                  Participant

                    I suppose that the historical plan of a similar ship from NMM was taken as the basis.
                    Thank you Frank!

                    #19032
                    Frank Scott
                    Participant

                      The whole issue of replicas & how craft were designed, constructed & operated in the past is very difficult & requires us to ‘unlearn’ many preconceptions – particularly the belief that our way of doing things is manifestly superior to anything done in the past. Even when we have dimensions, it can well turn out that these were not done in the manner to which we are accustomed. Measurement of beam being a particular issue. So much was done ‘by eye’ and to the whim of the builder that the idea of ‘rules’ is faintly ridiculous. Modern sailors & designers try as hard as they can, but getting into the mindset of our ancestors is far from easy.

                      Some books that you may find useful are:
                      Greenhill & Unger (eds.) Cogs, Caravels & Galleons: The sailing ship 1000-1650 (London, 1994)
                      Greenhill & Manning, The Evolution of the Wooden Ship (Oxford, 1988)
                      Bennett. J. (ed.), Sailing into the past: Learning from replica ships (Barnsley, 2009)

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