Upkeep of the Garlandstone at Morwellham
One of your committee members, Judith M L Godfrey, has kindly drawn my attention to
a letter, written by Martin Benn and published in the October 2005 issue of South West Soundings, about the ketch Garlandstone, and invited me to respond.
Much engineering design and thought has gone into the rebuild and maintenance of the Garlandstone since she arrived at Morwellham in 1987. Not all of it is recognised as normal maritime maintenance, but we are satisfied that it is the right course. She might look as if she has been at sea for a working life but that is not out of place at Morwellham where we try to recreate the feel of the mid-19th century. What is important is the degree of rot or deterioration.
In the rebuild all end grain was saturated with linseed oil based red lead paint. All frames were again red leaded and, after faring off, saturated again before the planks were fitted. All joints that were not glued, but potentially could have dead air space, were treated in the same way. Butt joints in the planking were red leaded. Subsequent maintenance, on an annual basis, is to red lead any end grain timber such as parts of the barrel windlass, hatch combings, boom jaw supports etc. This may not look neat but it is effective. In the same vein, the external paint of the boat is black bitumastic paint, which does wear away in the sunlight but has the vital property of being porous, thus letting the wood breathe. Other work which is going forward on the Garlandstone on a regular basis includes the soaking of the whole deck in linseed oil at least once a year and the lathering of all spars with a mixture of Polybore and agricultural grease, the mast chocks are particularly greased. The varnished work above the master’s cabin has, despite our best efforts, discoloured, as has the ship’s wheel, so we scrape off and oil instead.
Since Mr Benn’s visit we have had a team of riggers from T Nielsen and Co working on the ratlines and standing rigging. Scheduled for this year is the removal of all masts and spars and their refurbishment in Nielsen’s yard at Gloucester dry dock. We also plan to fit out the foc’sle cabin and the galley and use new audio technology to interpret the vessel. We are also pleased to have recruited Mr Ian Elton, a former marine surveyor, to our maintenance staff and he will be responsible for the day to day maintenance of the Garlandstone.
We do take our responsibilities as custodians of the Garlandstone extremely seriously and she plays a vital role in our presentation of mid-19th century Morwellham. There may have been occasions in the past where our interpretation and presentation of the vessel have left something to be desired but we hope that, with more resources available (as is highly likely), we will be able to improve this and that visitors to Morwellham will get a real sense of the world of the Victorian seaman.
Anthony Power, Director, Morwellham Quay, Nr Tavistock, Devon, PL19 8JL
Tel: 01822 832766. Website:
From Anthony Power - Director of Morwellham Quay
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