August 31, 2016
The project to restore Ripple (built by Berthon in 1925) continues. With the centreline structure, new laminated frames and bronze floors in place, the next step for Ripple will be to add the Alaskan yellow cedar planking to form the hull of the yacht.
Although the frame and measurements of the boat are as close as possible to the original design, the timber being used will be quite different to that used when Ripple was built in the 1920’s. Mike Prince, one of Berthon’s longest serving shipwrights and the man overseeing the Ripple woodwork with Berthon’s apprentices, explains “For the rebuild of Ripple we’ll be using Alaskan yellow cedar instead of red pine which was used originally on Ripple. When asked ‘why’, he explained that “The open grain of the original timber had resulted in splits in many of the old planks and had suffered from multiple fixings added over time. The tight grain of the Alaskan yellow cedar means that it provides many of the benefits of planking in hardwood but is almost half the weight of oak or mahogany.”
West Country based Stones Marine Timber were selected as the company chosen to produce and deliver the cedar to Berthon. Stones has a strong association with the upkeep and restoration of classic yachts and understands the customer’s demands, as well as priding themselves in utilising traditional sawing methods and sustainable sourcing from forests in America. The order was placed late last autumn and these photos show the actual cedar trees following the recent spring melt on previously snow covered slopes of the North American continent prior to deep sawing and then after kiln drying and quarter sawing. Jim Stone continues “Yellow cedar is an all time favourite of Stones Marine Timber. Apart from teak, its resistance
to rot is unparalleled. The wood has fine straight grain and is a pleasure to work with when boatbuilding. It has a high oil count and is strongly aromatic. Apart from boatbuilding, uses include closets, trunks and chests due to its moth repelling qualities. Other uses are water tanks and pipelines, acid storage tanks, and chemical containers. The wood is also highly fire resistant. On tests using 1 5/8” boards the burn through time was 44 minutes which is approximately 20 minutes long than other boatbuilding timbers.”
Following arrival at Berthon, the wood will now be cut into shape, steamed, formed around the hull frames and cramped into position. Once cooled, the plank will be fitted in its final position and fixed to the frames using traditional bronze fastenings.
The accuracy of the planking process is important in order to ensure not only that the hull shape of the original yacht is retained, but also to ensure that the topside planks fit each other to allow the topsides to be varnished. The original build methods would have resulted in the planks being finished with gaps (or seams) between. These seams were caulked using cotton and tar to seal the gaps in-between the planks. Current Berthon shipwright apprentices’ attention to detail and precision will mean that Ripple’s planking will be designed to fit together perfectly. The last touches will be to fair the outer surface of the cedar using traditional wooden planes to achieve the final desired hull shape. Because she will be stiffer than her forebears, splining above the waterline, this is a possibility with traditional caulking below.
After the planking for the hull, fitting of bent timbers and beam shelf has been completed, the next step will be to lay out the deck. Mike explains that “The replacement deck will be formed from plywood instead of the original pine planking. The ply deck will impart a good deal of strength into the structure and instead of the original canvas covering that was painted to save weight, time and therefore build cost, Brian has decided to add traditional teak planking.”
Read more on the restoration of Ripple – West Solent One Design