America's Most Historic Yacht

Why the bow of the boat looks so rough

Posted By on April 3, 2010

June 2009 progress

Coronet has been in her shed behind IYRS for quite some time now.  Over the years since being set up “on the hard” as they say, she’s been carefully surveyed using laser measuring tools, and that data has been turned into a new set of computer-generated lines plans.

Her interior has been removed and is mostly stored off site, although we have a collection of artifacts arranged around the catwalk that surrounds the boat.  If you come to visit, you can walk around the catwalk and see these, as well as watch the shipwrights working on the boat.

Naturally, the first order of business when doing a restoration like this is to document as much of the existing boat as possible.  You take pictures and measurements of everything you can think of.  You keep everything you take out of the boat.  You look for old photos and drawings of the boat, newspaper stories, magazine articles, references to her in ships logs… on and on.  You never know when you’ll run across something you need, such as the placement of a winch or the style of deck chairs used on the original.

Then, there is information about the construction and state of the boat that can only be found by taking her apart.  In the summer of July 2009, the team began to tackle this part of the project.

[NOTE:  clicking on any of these photos will take you to the larger, original pictures.]

You’re looking at the starboard side (the right side, as you’re facing forward on a ship) of Coronet, with the stem to your right.  A section of the planking has been removed to reveal both the construction of the boat around the stem as well as the areas where the boat was failing.

You can see a lot of rot in this area.

So, what was going on there?  Let’s take a look at the original boat.

If you look below the bowsprit (that big white tree coming out of the front of the boat) you will see 3 lines.  Those are the bobstays, and they help to hold the bowsprit down.  You can see the fittings for them in the photos above.  The bowsprit is being pulled up by all the forces from the various sails and lines that are attached to the bowsprit.  The aft end of the bowsprit is about 10′ or so back from the stem of the boat.  If you think of the bowsprit as a lever, there’s a lot of force being directed into the front of the boat from this giant timber.  You can get an idea of this by holding a broom handle at the end with both your hands, and have someone else push the other end.  There’s a lot of torque there at your hands, and even if you’re plenty strong, your hands will be moved by a relatively small push.

Now, the forces on the bowsprit are not just vertical, but horizontal as well.  The sails are pulling from one side or another as the boat is being moved by the wind, so the forces on this lever are also side-to-side.   To counteract these forces some, boat designers add in what are essentially  horizontal bobstays, called the bowsprit shrouds.  Here’s an old instruction manual on seamanship and gunnery that gives diagrams of these parts as well as instructions for setting up the rigging.

Too much information??  Oh, that’s just the beginning.

But, Back to the forces… Now, you may notice that the angle of the bobstay to the bowsprit is rather large as it goes down to the stem.  That angle gives the bobstay a lot of holding power against upward forces.  Imagine that the bobstay was attached  to the boat much higher up the stem, making a much shallower angle between it and the bowsprit.  It wouldn’t be able to resist the upwards forces of the sails as well as when it’s attached lower on the stem.

NOW, we come to the point of this whole digression:  The bowsprit shrouds, those lines coming out from the sides of the bowsprit, attach to the sides of the boat at a very shallow angle.  This means that they are not that good at resisting the side-to-side forces transmitted to the boat hull by the bowsprit.

In other words, the front of the boat gets absolutely whaled on by the forces acting on the bowsprit.  So, the front of the boat creaks and groans and moves, seams open up, water gets in, things start to rot.  You could build a beefier rig to help resist these forces, but it starts to make your fine yacht look ungainly.

And THAT is why you have the front of Coronet looking so rough underneath her planking.


I referred to the bowsprit as a tree coming out of the front of the boat earlier.  I wasn’t kidding, it really was a tree.

Here it is coming out of the boat with the help of a 1.5 ton capacity crane.  Next, we’ll look at some of the replacement parts under construction.


5 Responses to “Why the bow of the boat looks so rough”

  1. frank rose says:

    I used to work at electric boat quonset point for 1974 to 1986 and have gone to newport many times. Now I have live in Fort Lauderdale Fl. and I teaching Welding at a county school, Atlantic Technical Center. When I lived there I don’t think your school was open, I have been out side your school gates and will one day come back on vacation to see the works of art that you all are building, every teacher, student and volunteer should be proud of the work that you all are doing. Keep it up the great work and learn a great skill that will stay with you for all the days to come.

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks Frank. The guys who are doing the work on Coronet are not IYRS employees, but there are many connections between this project and the school, not the least of which is that the restoration of Coronet was part of the impetus for getting the school started in the first place. Coronet is still located directly behind the school, so it would be a big loss to visit one without taking the time to see the other. We look forward to you visiting the next time you’re up our way.

  3. David M. Ritchie says:

    Tom- My grandmother was Hope Bush, her father was Irving T. Bush, the son of Rufus T. Bush who originally built the Coronet in the 1880’s. I visited your school/project last month and have sent a check to enrol as a member of IYRS so as to keep up with your progress. I have friends who live in and around Newport so I’ll be back up for another visit soon and would like to meet you in case you aren’t the one who I met last month- Sincerely, David Ritchie

  4. Tim Murray says:

    Again, a fantastic piece of explanation and coverage, Tom. I also wrote Coronet’s history (now out of print) and I wish I had known David Ritchie then! Any way to get in touch with him?

    Question: when I was Capt., we always called the “horizontal bobstays” Whisker Stays. Any idea why? I was just following on-board tradition, the same tradition that insisted “tackle” was pronounced with a long A sound, not rhyming with “spackle” and that lazarette rhymed with “feet” not “get.” I think these were mid-19th century down-east pronunciations, handed down from Captain to Captain.

    Tim Murray

  5. admin says:

    Hi Tim,
    I’m glad you found us! Thanks for the ID of the whisker stay by the way. Turns out that a whisker stay is a bobstay with “whiskers,” the sideways projecting spreaders that hold the stays out away from the hull. I’ve also heard tackle pronounced Tay-kel by many boat builders, particularly those from Maine. However, the lazarette pronunciation is a new one for me. We still call it the Laz-er-et.

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