Friday, March 14, 2008
BUILDING THE CHALLENGE
Old traditions share space with latest technology
By Tea Krulos, Photos by Paul Kjelland
When the new Discovery World opens at Pier Wisconsin on September 9, it will feature a stunning array of cutting edge technology. But one of the main attractions, a replica of the 1852 schooner The Challenge, was built in the old, traditional craft of wooden boat building. It’s an art that has few practioners left.
One of the crew of boat builders working on The Challenge was Amy “Shredder” Schaub. Unlike many people her age, Amy has decided to pursue a career in boat building, sailing, and teaching these skills to others.
“SHREDDER’S” SEA CHANTY
Amy began as a volunteer crewmember on the S/V Denis Sullivan, a recreation of an 1880’s era three masted schooner that now calls Pier Wisconsin home. The schooner was built under the direction of shipwright Rob Stevens, who has been building boats for over 25 years. He has built a replica of a Viking boat, the Snorri, among others. Amy took a basic boat building and sailing class. When the Denis Sullivan was set to cruise on it’s second voyage, Amy joined the crew as a deckhand. The voyage took the boat up through the St. Lawrence Seaway, and then down the East coast as far South as Florida. It was here in Florida that she took a test and received her Captain’s license.
The following year, Amy again voyaged with the Denis Sullivan, this time as Second Mate. They stopped at the Tall Ships Festival in Green Bay, and then again headed through the St. Lawrence Seaway, stopping in Halifax, and then heading to the Bahamas and Bermuda. The crew met Bermuda’s Governor, who joined them in a round of Bermuda’s official drink- the Dark and Stormy. This delicious cocktail consists of Gosling’s rum mixed with ginger beer and lime.
The next spring, Amy returned to Caribbean shores to teach Semester at Sea, a six week program for High school girls, who learned new skills as well as experiencing seasickness first hand. Subjects for the class included Sail Training, Water Science, Navigation, Maritime History, and Weather. Returning to Milwaukee, she taught on the ship Neeskay for the UWM Great Lakes Water Institute.
A TRAINING IN MYSTERY BAY
Amy decided to advance her boat building skills at the Northwest School of Boat Building in Port Hadlock, which lies on Mystery Bay in Washington State. After a semester she graduated with an associate’s degree in large vessel construction. The skills she obtained would be useful for her return to Milwaukee.
While in Port Hadlock, she received a call from Rob Stevens. He had work for her helping to build the Challenge. William Wallace Bates originally built the boat in 1852 in Manitowoc. It was built for speed, delivering cargo throughout the Great Lakes area. The ship met its fate in 1910 when it began to take water. The crew tried to pump the water out, but soon had to run the ship aground in the Milwaukee River. Folklore says the ship crashed into a shoreline saloon, but there is no official record of this.
BUILDING THE BOAT
Hundreds of steps, big and small go into building the schooner. Amy began working on the boat October of last year, after she graduated. Construction of the boat started with the “backbone” which includes the stem and keel. Next the frames or “ribs” are added to form the skeleton of the ship.
Planking begins. The planking is the wood that makes up the hull, the skin of the ship. The rudder is added. Deck beams, which support the deck floor, are placed.
A system of spars, masts, the jib boom, and bowsprit are constructed. All of these are parts, which hold the sails and the ropes, and parts that help move the sails, known as rigging. The pilothouses and cabins start to be constructed, and the deck is laid down. The anchor windlass, which houses the anchor and chain, and the anchor support system, is built. Lots and lots of sanding, painting, and detail work happen. One of the last steps is to add the sails and rigging. In order to get an authentic look, the shipwrights wanted to get pieces made for the ship, from the same source the original builders of the Challenge would have gone, a blacksmith.
CALLING IN THE BLACKSMITH
Like Amy, Nathaniel Reinartz is practicing a career in an uncommon art- blacksmithing. He was contracted to build several small working pieces for the Challenge, straps, plates, runners, and other parts. Some of the UnderCurrents crew traveled to Kewaskum, where Nathaniel was working in the Bighorn Forge on a piece called the traveler, a device that helps move the boom, which helps move a sail. The forge is on a pleasant farm housed inside a barn with dirt floors. The shop is filled with fiery furnaces, anvils, and racks and shelves full of hammers, tongs, rulers and various other tools and materials. A cow skull hangs above the doorway, and a rooster crows periodically in the background.
“The definition of Blacksmith has changed a lot over the years. The craft has always been somewhat ornamental, but now it’s 100 percent ornamental.” Nathaniel tells us. He’s glad to be working on functioning pieces, even if the ship isn’t setting sail. The Challenge is suspended from the ceiling inside Discovery World. People can walk underneath the ship and then board it on the second level of the museum. I asked Amy how she felt about putting so much work into a ship that will never sail the high seas. She said basically that she was just glad to practice her boat building skills.
The Challenge has helped Amy and Nathaniel apply their trade, but where can they go from here? Amy is returning to Port Townsend to teach on the schooner Martha, a two masted schooner that has survived since it was built in 1905. It has had a lot of work done, and although it can’t make long voyages, it can go on short class length trips. Nathaniel will carry on seeking freelance work, ornamental fences and other work.
MORE ATTRACTIONS AT DISCOVERY WORLD
In addition to the Challenge and the S/V Denis Sullivan, displays will include saltwater and freshwater aquariums, and touch tanks with sturgeons, sharks and stingrays. More displays-
* The HIVE is a “multimedia experience that immerges you in an exciting virtual environment.”
* Rockwell Automation’s Dream Machine “build your own 3-D object”
* Techno Jungle “join the hunt for the next great idea”
* Great Lakes Future, a scale representation of the Great Lakes waterway.
* Health Satellite “ explore modern medicine and it’s tools by diagnosing an astronaut on a mission to Mars”
* Energy and Ingenuity, “explore energy and it’s uses and sources”
* Life Jet City “an interactive display that teaches you how to get your ideas into the Marketplace.”
Discovery World’s Exhibit Grand opening is September 9t After Sept 10, Discovery World will be open every day 9-5
GOT A MOUTH LIKE A SAILOR?
Schooner- A boat with two or more masts with the main mast taller than the rest.
Transom- The bow of the ship.
Windlass- Drum that hauls the anchor up.
Capston- Wheel turned in a circle by sailors that hauls the anchor up.
Spar- Sticks that support the sails and rigging.
Jib Boom- A spar that sticks out in front of the boat.
Jib- Small forward sail.
Starboard- Right hand side facing forward.
Port- Left hand side facing forward.
Cut of your jib- As in “I don’t like the cut of your jib.”
This article originally appeared in UnderCurrents