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CAPTAIN'S LOG: Winter Maintenance 2015

Winter time is a busy time for us at PRIDE. Over the course of the 2014 sailing season, PRIDE accumulated wear and tear performing her mission, so we make use of the winter to examine and repair the ship.

PRIDE under wraps, courtesy Jan Miles
PRIDE under wraps, courtesy Jan Miles

Effective winter maintenance procedures include storing all of the ship’s upper and outer spars and rigging under cover. Also, to minimize ongoing wear and tear during the winter the ship herself is covered for protection from rain and sun. Doing this has the added benefit of enabling the ship to be opened up for extra ventilation.

Our Constant Battle With Moisture

Traditionally built wooden vessels are assembled of big sections of trees. These so precisely shaped and tightly assembled sections continue to be impacted by moisture. Even when protected by paint, varnish or oil they will change their dimension as moisture changes. This movement can break down the protecting patina, so we look for and attend to that.

Also, moisture can form upon surfaces due to differing temperatures within the ship. A dry deck and upper hull planking can belie the fact that there could be condensation in spaces below the waterline (air is warm but sea is cool causes condensation at the zone of sharp change of temperature between the two air zones).

Guest Crew and Volunteer Mark Thieling, courtesy Jan Miles
Guest Crew and Volunteer Mark Thieling, courtesy Jan Miles

Ventilating the condensation away easily can only really be done when we are able to open the ship up below and vent to the deck. So during the winter with no risk of rain getting below due to the ship being covered the below area is opened up by opening both the upper deck hatches as well picking up cabin sole boards and opening all locker spaces that were emptied out. Fans are placed to increase the chance of circulating bilge area air.

Meanwhile, the winter crew and several dedicated volunteers, including a number of Boy Scout Troops, collaborate on attending to the spars and rigging. With extra time cosmetics on the ship will be touched up. But the priority are the spars and the rigging. After all, to cause PRIDE…weighing nearly a half of a million pounds…to sail at greats speeds in winds that have also created considerable sea requires strong and dependable spars and rigging in addition to a strung, tight, well cared for hull. We hope to ensure this strength and good condition by making use of any time the ship is not actually sailing.

The Extra Mile

If it strikes some of you that this is all pretty normal and expected, this is most appreciated. But let me provide a distinction about the amount of effort that goes into one aspect of regular maintenance for PRIDE. Consider the blocks used in the rigging. They are what is described as “rope stropped”. This term refers to a bit of cable (today this can be steel wire or synthetic braided or twisted rope) that circles the shell of the block and also the attachment hardware that may be at one or both ends of the block. This loop circling the block and hardware is called the strop. The strop must be seized to both the bock shell and the hardware at one or both ends of the block.

Doing this seizing is a precise affair and the process includes making the seizing as tight as humanly possible to account for stretch under future load that will occur when sailing the ship. I have not mentioned the preparations of the strop. That is also a very precise process. Any lack of preciseness will likely result in the block becoming able to pop out of the strop.

I won’t try to paint the picture of what kind of mayhem that event might create. After a season of sailing, the winter crew re-varnish the block shell, which requires taking apart the whole rope-stropped assembly… then putting all back together again properly for future sailing. Plenty of work merely to protect the wood block…eh?

Jan C. Miles
A Captain with Pride of Baltimore, Inc. 

—Captain Jan Miles