Hawila’s new stem assembly

    In a wooden sailing ship, the apron nd astem deadwoods are often difficult to access. The stem is the part of the ship located at the very front, the “near vertical” continuation of the “horizontal” keel.

    The stem on Hawila is composed of two pieces : the outerstem -the above water part- and the forefoot -the curved junction between the outerstem and the keel-. Inside the ship, the stem is reinforced by deadwood pieces and the apron right behind the stem. The role of this structure is to add strength to the stem and make the connection between the stem, the keel, the keelson and the frames. Frames are bolted to those pieces and often deadwoods have assemblies above and below the keelson, making them hard to remove without removing planking, frames and keelson.

    Leif and Marvin, two german boat builders, came especially to help us with the rebuilding of the entire apron and modifying the stem assembly. The only piece we chose to keep, is the actual stem, which is in a very good state of preservation.

    First, Leif and Marvin had to remove the metal casing covering the forward keel/forefoot and take off the bolts that were holding the deadwoods to the stem, keel and keelson. After cleaning the surface, they used plywood templates to mirror the shape of the future deadwoods and apron. In a similar way as for framing, they chose the timber showing the best grain direction, ensuring strength to the piece.

    Pieces are cut, planed, and placed in position one by one, helped with tackles and blocks to ease the lift. Once fitted, we lift them again and use anti-fungal paint and pine tar at each wood to wood surface. To finish, the pieces are clamped firmly before being bolted with galvanised 20mm steel bars, threaded in each end by our local blacksmith. Later, when the keelson will be sandwiched with the last overlying knee, 24mm bars will be used to bolt the pieces to the keel. And finally we will carve a new rabbet all the way on the keel and the stem.

    Hawila was built as a motor sailor in 1935, and in the 80’s was heavily refitted with a larger rigging and a big bowsprit. Today this whole assembly seems too weak to withstand the forces of the foresails, and the crew had noticed a slight and slow move aft of the stem and bowsprit over the years while sailing. As a result we chose to increase the sizes of the deadwoods and apron and add a large overlapping knee to add more strength to the all assembly. Later in the process, this knee will be incorporated into the forward impact bulkhead to ensure even more stability over the years and the seas to come…

    Thank you Leif and Marvin for your amazing and efficient work !

    Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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