The aft cargo hold’s sole is ready to welcome visitors next weekend!

Although the surface is still temporary, the beams are all new and fixed.

One of the main prerequisites here was to make enough space available underneath the sole to accommodate sufficient internal ballast, which is essential on a sailing ship like Hawila. It provides stability as it keeps the ship upright and steady, especially when under sail. The solution we found was to mount a large oak wedge on the keelson, which rises from 0 to 15cm over the length of the cargo hold.

Once the wedge was in place, we started templating, cutting and putting on the first and last sole beams. These were measured and cut with a compound mitre, to fit the position and angle of the frames they are attached to. This must be done carefully, as between them, they establish the plane of the sole. It must be level in relation to the waterline of the boat and not twisted.

We then added new ceiling planks on both sides for the intermediate sole beams to rest on. For this we first used two pieces of oak, protecting them with tar underneath, sanding and oiling them on their visible face. Some of Hawila’s old deck planks were used for the ceiling planks below the sole. Made of pine, they were coated with bitumen lacquer to protect them from the water and humidity in the bilge. Before screwing the planks to the frames, we overlaid the latter with a mixture of linseed oil, tar and limestone chalk powder, which has antifungal properties and beds the components down.

Stretching from one side of the ceiling to the other, whilst also sitting on the keelson and wedge, the intermediate sole beams were positioned in reference to the first and last beams. It was here of great importance that the beams were straight and had three support points, two on the ceiling and one on the keelson, as the sole will have to support 35 tons of cargo.

The method, commonly used by carpenters for ensuring that the beams follow the plane established by the first and last beam, is to nail a taught string line between the two, sitting on top of a 4mm plywood packer. This means that the exact position for the intermediate beams is 4mm below the string line. By placing a 4mm packer below the string line we can see if the beam is too high or low if the packer fits nicely without a gap. Once the beams were attached and painted with bitumen paint, we cleaned the entire bilge and painted it with boat soup as the frames were very dry.

Finally, we built a temporary floor out of plywood, with access hatches strategically placed above the bilge pumps. The final floor will likely be made of oak, although the exact thickness and material of the sole boards are yet to be determined.

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