Friday, 6 December 2013

Winding gear no more

For many years it had been assumed that the four drums with cog wheels were part of an elaborate winding system for pulling Peggy into the cellar. We now believe this not to be true. There are in fact anchorage points for blocks and tackle set into the cellar floor at the back of the room, and its far more likely these were what Quayle’s men used to pull the boat from the sea to the cellar.

Paul Drury is of the opinion that the drums are more probably parts salvaged from George Quayle’s flax mill, which had been spectacularly successful before banking and political interests came to dominate his public life. In 1793 George was awarded a Silver Medal by the Royal Society in London for an invention designed to make the flow of water to a mill wheel more even, regardless of how much water was held in the feed reservoir. Here’s a picture of the winning design.


During the past 24 hours the British Isles have been subjected to tidal surges and a Winter storm. What was described yesterday on BBC Radio 4 as “a mound of water” pushing up from the South met Northerly winds head-on. Worst affected was the East coast of England, but here on the Isle of Man, half way between England and Ireland, we also experienced high water.
High tide yesterday saw me down in the boat cellar taking pictures of Peggy. Being midday, this was a rare opportunity to see what a high tide with a storm surge can do. As you can see from the photographs, the result wasn’t pretty although, thankfully, the seawater rose just short of Peggy herself by two or three centimetres. In March 2015 a tide is predicted sixty seven centimetres higher still than that we saw yesterday. Such a tide would fill Peggy one third full of seawater (she won’t float because she’s full of small holes).

These pictures illustrate graphically why removing Peggy from the cellar before 2015 is such a high priority for Manx National Heritage.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Necessary hurdles

Since I last wrote on the blog my colleagues and I have met on site with the Conservation Officer and the Planning Department to discuss our intention to remove the contents of the yard (in front of the boat cellar; you'll recall this is necessary to allow us space to pull Peggy out of her cellar). Manx National Heritage is the Isle of Man's heritage agency and we have a strong lead role in upholding and promoting the statutory protection of historic buildings and sites. We are very keen to ensure that we have complied with all the same legal requirements any private owner would be expected to comply with. We've taken advice from structural engineers about the likely consequences of removing the infill from the yard, and they didn't identify any risks to the surrounding structures. We've been advised to submit a planning application for the work, and we're hopeful of a favourable verdict. We have also appointed a Project Manager to oversee the practicalities of health and safety and other technical matters for the excavation of the yard and, later, the removal  of the boat. We are now ready to send out the job brief to archaeological contractors.

If this all seems rather dry and tedious, that's because it is! However, we are determined to plan every aspect of the conservation works to the highest standard we can. We want the various stages to run smoothly, and most of all we need the collective consent of our colleagues and friends on the island and further afield.

We are hoping to begin the archaeological excavation in January for completion in March 2014.

Meanwhile we are continuing our search for a suitable conservation facility for Peggy on the island. We have been working further with Paul Drury (see previous post) to unravel the hidden history of George Quayle and his use of the site. We think now that Mr. Drurys' final report will be held back in order to incorporate any findings from the archaeological dig of the yard (or 'dock' or 'slipway'...). 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Progress update

It's been some time since my last post on this blog because I have been unable to access my account! Readers may therefore be surprised to learn just how much has been happening.
The Drury MacPherson Partnership has been appointed to compile a conservation management plan covering the future of Peggy and of the Nautical Museum site. Paul Drury and his team have been hard at work on a comprehensive analysis and re-evaluation of the site and all related archive sources. They have turned up some astonishing facts about the buildings and the use to which they were put. We never knew, for example, that George Quayle's boat house extended, in the early part of the nineteenth century, over the dock in the form of a frigate deck (imagine that if you will!).
Meanwhile we have been writing a detailed brief for the archaeological excavation of the boat yard, a necessary precursor to the removal of the boat in 2014. We hope to have the dig completed early in the New Year. And we have also begun the search for a new building in which to put Peggy during the conservation phase, 2014-2019.
I shall try to post some of the laser metric survey drawings by James Brennan Associates.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Zetland and other maritime encounters

Last week I had the good fortune to visit the Zetland Lifeboat in Redcar. Zetland is a remarkable and venerable boat built in 1802, comparable in size to Peggy. She's the oldest surviving lifeboat in the world and her significance is attested to by her inclusion on the National Register of Historic Ships.

The Zetland lifeboat museum

I was very well-looked after by the volunteer staff who run the museum in which she's housed, particularly by Fred Brunskill of the Friends of the Zetland Lifeboat. It was fascinating to learn of the problems faced by the custodians, so similar and so different to those we face with Peggy. The main difference is that Zetland has a sealed deck, making her hard to study. Lately, under some raised deck planking, they have been able to ascertain that the tarred buoyancy 'boxes', designed to keep her afloat in all seas, are substantially rotted. More similar to the Peggy is the historic building in which Zetland is housed - it will be challenging to say the least to reduce and maintain a lower level of humidity in the building than that which it enjoys naturally.

A modern coble on the sea front in Redcar

One of the most striking things is that the hull-form of Zetland - the traditional coble common right up the NE coast of England and into Scotland - can clearly be seen in modern fishing vessels nearby. It's a flat bottomed hull ideally suited to launching from sandy beaches. A peculiarity of Peggy is that she is possibly the last surviving example of the shallop hull form, the once ubiquitous workhorse of inshore waters in the NW and cousin to the cobles of the NE.

I also visited the Grace Darling coble (1818) which, by contrast, is displayed as the centrepiece of a purpose-built museum in Bamburgh, and HMS Trincomalee in Hartlepool, a man of war of the same date, now a fully-restored visitor attraction. Both visits were very interesting.

HMS Trincomalee, a fully restored visitor attraction

Phase 2 begins...

Though it has been a while since my last post, we have not otherwise been idle. Paul Drury of the Drury Macpherson Partnership has been working very hard on the compilation of a Conservation Management Plan for the Nautical Museum which incorporates, of course, George Quayle's boat house. His research includes not only a detailed study of the buildings, their history and origins, but also a systematic perusal of all the relevant archival sources. Paul and his team have already unearthed some fantastic and hitherto unrecognised material, such as plans and sketches in George Quayle's hand from around 1812. Paul is hoping to organise a seminar on matters arising from his research later this year, to which we hope to invite knowledgeable and interested parties.

Meanwhile, Andrew Johnson, MNH Field Archaeologist, has been drafting a brief for the archaeological excavation of the dock outside the cellar. We have, with Paul's help, hit upon a means of removing the c. 100 tonnes of spoil from the dock through to the adjacent stable yard without the use of a crane. It'll involve reversing some alterations made to be buildings in or around 1950. We hope to put the brief out for quotation by commercial archaeological contractors soon, and to have the excavation completed within 6 to 8 months.

We are also hunting in earnest now for a suitable location on the island within which to study and conserve Peggy herself. We are aiming to have this facility fully prepared to accept her by late summer, 2014.

Finally, we have this week held an inaugural meeting of a steering group charged with defining and directing the various projects and sub-projects that our work on Peggy is generating. Amongst these are the management and interpretation of the Nautical Museum in the absence of its largest and most significant exhibit, and the conception and design of the visitor attraction in the long-term, including a new display space for Peggy. Happy days!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Jacking the boat

On Wednesday the jacking crew arrived from England. The boat was slowly and carefully raised 4 cm. It all went very well indeed and Peggy made absolutely no sound as she was lifted. After we had chopped out the timber supports she was to be seen, for a very brief time, floating in mid-air, held only by the six jacks. Now we know the mass of the boat: only 1.5 tonnes!

Here, I am fixing timber braces to prevent to boat from toppling

Dale from Hydra Capsule adjusts one of the jacks

Shane from Hydra Capsule operating the jacking pumps

Geoff and Kev, MNH Technicians, sawing away the old timber supports

Peggy, supported only on her jacks

Manhandling 400 kg of steel....

.... James Rowbottom from the Nautical Museum helping it into position under the keel

The skelton of our new cradle in place

Monday, 17 June 2013

A Ballad of John Silver by John Masefield

One of the early articles on Peggy is entitled "Schooner-rigged and rakish" which is a quotation from A Ballad of John Silver by John Masefield. The sentiment of the poem sets a stamp upon future articles and commentary on Peggy...

We were schooner-rigged and rakish, with a long and lissome hull,
And we flew the pretty colours of the cross-bones and the skull;
We'd a big black Jolly Roger flapping grimly at the fore,
And we sailed the Spanish Water in the happy days of yore.

We'd a long brass gun amidships, like a well-conducted ship,
We had each a brace of pistols and a cutlass at the hip;
It's a point which tells against us, and a fact to be deplored,
But we chased the goodly merchant-men and laid their ships aboard.

Then the dead men fouled the scuppers and the wounded filled the chains,
And the paint-work all was spatter-dashed with other people's brains,
She was boarded, she was looted, she was scuttled till she sank,
And the pale survivors left us by the medium of the plank.

O! then it was (while standing by the taffrail on the poop)
We could hear the drowning folk lament the absent chicken-coop;
Then, having washed the blood away, we'd little else to do
Than to dance a quiet hornpipe as the old salts taught us to.

O! the fiddle on the fo'c's'le, and the slapping naked soles,
And the genial "Down the middle, Jake, and curtsey when she rolls!"
With the silver seas around us and the pale moon overhead,
And the look-out not a-looking and his pipe-bowl glowing red.

Ah! the pig-tailed, quidding pirates and the pretty pranks we played,
All have since been put a stop-to by the naughty Board of Trade;
The schooners and the merry crews are laid away to rest,
A little south the sunset in the Islands of the Blest.

First published in 1902. John Masefield, Salt-Water Poems and BalladsHardpress Publishing (2013); ISBN-10: 1290965889; ISBN-13: 978-1290965880.

This is it

Yes, this is it. On Wednesday we will lift the Peggy off her timber supports and install the new cradle. Last week we tried the foam cushions against the boat and they are a perfect fit, so everything is now ready. Obviously there's still a risk when we lift her that she'll creak and groan a bit, but I'm confident that, with the lifting gear we'll be using, it'll be OK.

This weekend I was to be heard on Manx Radio discussing the project on Sunday Opinion with Roger Watterson. For a short time you can hear the show by following this link. I was delighted that Roger had lined up my colleague Matthew Richardson, Curator of Social History and of the Nautical Museum, who gave a very fluent account of George Quayle, his life and times which is well worth a listen. Down the line too was John Kearon, Master Shipwright, who knows Peggy well and serves on the Committee of National Historic Ships UK. John has a broader first-hand knowledge of historic ships than anyone else I've ever met.

While I was chatting it occured to me it might be helpful to list some of the articles and books that make reference to Peggy and related matters. So here goes:

Anon., ‘Captain Quayle’s Schooner ‘Peggy’ of Castletown’ in Journal of the Manx Museum, 1937, volume 3, pp. 211-214.
Anon., ‘Peggy – Schooner-Rigged and Rakish’ in The Yachting World and Motor Boating Journal 218, vol. 84 (1936). 
Clucas, W. R., ‘The Saga of the "Peggy”’ Sea Breezes (July 1982) pp. 461-463.
DK Jones, Plans of Peggy, 1969, originals held at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich
Greenhill, B., ‘The Schooner Peggy: An Eighteenth-Century Survival’ in The American Neptune, January 1969, pp. 54-61.
Greenhill, B., ‘The Schooner Peggy: Eighteenth-century Survival at the Nautical Museum, Castletown’ in Journal of the Manx Museum, 1967, volume 3, pp. 68-76.
Greenhill, B., The Merchant Schooners: Volume One pp. 26, 28;
Kemp, P., The History of Ships, Greenwich Editions (2000)
Lavery, B. (Ed.), Conway’s History of The Ship Vol 4, Conway Maritime Press (1992)
New York Times 21st October 2004.
Nixon, W.M., ‘Les Fantômes de la mer d’Irlande: Histoires et redécouverte des deux plus vieux yachts du monde’, Chasse Marée 27 (1987) pp. 10-25.
Paine, Lincoln P., Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 389-90.
Parkin, R., HM Bark Endeavour, Melbourne University Press (1997)
Swaine, G., ’George Quayle and the Peggy’, in World Ship Review, No. 41, 2005, pp. 1-12.
Watkinson, D., Analytical report on corroded nails from Peggy, Cardiff University, (2010).
May, W.E., The Boats of Men of War, Chatham, ISBN 1-86176-114-7
Marquardt, Karl Heinz, Eighteenth Century Rigs and Rigging, ISBN 0-85177-586-1
Lees, James, The Masting and Rigging of English Ships of War, 1625-1860, ISBN 0-85177-290-0

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Final preparations

In the next few days Geoff and I are considring the method we'll use to prevent the boat from toppling when we lift her. If you've read previous posts you might see our problem. Because we are lifting Peggy from the keel alone there'll be nothing to stop her falling over once we remove the props currently hold her up!
So, next week we'll visit the cellar once again to plan exactly how we are going to achieve this. As usual we are limited in what we can do because of the size of the room and the archaeological sensitivity of the walls, floor and ceiling. At the moment we are thinking along the lines of restraining the boat with props to the top corners of the room. It's hard to explain and will be easier to understand once I can show a picture of the device in action.
We are also going to set up the new boat cradle in the yard outside. This is to make sure we know which bit is which before we have to assemble it in situ. It'll be important to sort out where the foam cushions go, too - they are bespoke and each of the six is designed for a specific location on the boat. Unfortunately they arrived unmarked, so it'll be a question of putting them against the boat to find out which is which!
Right now we're in Douglas. There's little point trying to work on site because at this time of year the population of the Isle of Man doubles and everyone's on a motorbike enjoying the TT festival. It's the only time of year when the island experiences real traffic congestion.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Rails and blocks

Geoff and Kevin (MNH technicians) and I have been busy laying rails on the cellar floor. We will assemble our cradle on top of these in two weeks’ time. It was very important to get the rails pointing in the right direction and to make sure they are parallel to each other, level, the correct height, and inclined down the slope at the correct angle. Unsurprisingly that took us all day!
We then laid down some barrier textile to protect the floor and set the rails in concrete. We also set some concrete blocks on the ground upon which to sit the hydraulic jacks we’ll use to lift the boat. We’re giving the concrete a couple of weeks to go off completely because we can’t afford to take any chances.

Setting the rails

Kev draws the short straw - cutting concrete blocks

This picture shows Geoff levelling the jacking blocks. Note the rod slotted through the keel: this will be used to lift the boat.

Preparation for Phase 2

Phase two will see the removal of the boat from the cellar in 2014. We have to excavate 100 tonnes of infill from the yard before this can happen. Andrew Johnson, MNH Field Archaeologist is preparing a brief for an archaeological dig in the yard. It’s an essential step to take before we send in the diggers, and it will help us decide how best to proceed.

Meanwhile, I took advantage of the presence of the crane last week to remove this anchor from the yard. We’re not certain when it was put there and which ship it belonged to. It’s now sitting safely in the adjacent stable yard.

Mystery anchor?

Delivery of the new cradle

Last Tuesday the new cradle was delivered to the Nautical Museum. Even though it was delivered in pieces it was still necessary to hoist it over the roof of the museum by crane because the museum itself is a rather small and eccentric eighteenth-century timber building situated in a narrow lane. We had to apply for a road closure notice as the crane completely blocked it! The local residents were very patient with us which helped enormously.

Chris from Mann Crane Hire instructs the troops

Galla's Foundry deliver the new cradle
Crane and delivery lorry parked outside the Nautical Museum

Everything went very smoothly....
... and here's the end result. The red sections are the lifting superstructure.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Week's progress

No pun intended...
Geoff has fitted the stainless steel 'yolks' to the keel of Peggy (you'll recall the keel is a replacement dating from 1950). These have a hole through them to take bars that will be used to lift the boat.They are permanent alterations to the keel, and accordingly they are very beautifully made and precisely fitted. They are also slightly rebated so that we will be able to hide them with a suitable veneer once we have used them.
Most of last week was spent phoning round all the contractors that are lined up to help with the lift of the boat and the installation of the cradle, namely the fabricators, jacking crew and crane operator (the new cradle will need to be hoisted into the museum yard over the roof). I have had to apply for closure of Bridge Street to allow the crane to operate. It looks like with are all set for the installation of the new cradle during the week beginning 17th June.

Monday, 29 April 2013

18th century hovercraft?

It would be hard to detail here all of the many, many ideas we have had, some good, some bad, in answer to the technical challenges of lifting the boat and removing it from the cellar. The team at MNH includes Steve Blackford, Head of Properties and his colleagues, and, very importantly, the Technicians, led by Geoff Mitchell. So much thought has gone into our plans that we often forget how we got here. One of our contractors asked this week "Why can't you just take the boat apart and re-assemble it somewhere else?"

How not to take a boat apart # 327

It's a perfectly reasonable question, after all. The answer is that we are trying as hard as we can to preserve what we'd call Peggy's 'archaeological integrity' - that is, all of the tiny relationships between every tiny element she's made of. We know she's a very significant boat but we don't know everything about her, so we are trying to keep as much of the evidence as possible. However carefully we tried, taking her apart would damage her a lot, and that would defeat the point of moving her.

Lately Geoff and I have been thinking hard about the way that Peggy, in her steel support cradle, will slide out of the boat cellar. We are shortly going to lay rails on the cellar floor that'll eventually lead out of the door and into the yard. We have to try to get the rails precisely aligned with each other and on the correct slope. There'll be three rails including one in the centre under the keel. Geoff has designed Teflon pads that the cradle will sit on to help it slide down the rails. Now, obviously we don't want that to happen too soon (!) because the boat will be sitting still for a year or so while we prepare the site for her exit. The pads are not so slippery, nor the slope so steep, that the boat won't stay put. How then to get it moving when the time comes without causing it to judder and shake?
Geoff has invented an ingenious solution to this problem. Each Teflon pad will be fitted with a compressed air inlet. The underside will have grooves in it that will let the compressed air escape, very much like a hovercraft but without the rubber skirt. We calculate this will provide just enough lift to get the boat moving down the rails. Turning off the air supply will act as a brake. Rest assured we will film the device in action so you can see it.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Installation date fixed

The news this week is that I have now fixed a date in the middle of June for the lifting of the boat and the installation of the new support cradle. On the Isle of Man it's usually a good idea to avoid programming complicated site work during the TT Festival in May/ June, so as to avoid getting in the way of the many visitors who visit the Island at that time to enjoy the fun and thrills!
Hydra-Capsule Ltd, of Bishops' Frome, Worcestershire will be lifting the boat for us; they are bridge lifting specialists but have lifted boats before, too. The cradle itself will be delivered in bits, by crane, into the the yard outsides the cellar. It'd be a lot easier if the yard weren't completely walled-in... 
Ashley Pettit Architects, Douglas IOM
Nautical Museum Basement level Ground Plan by APA Architects

Then it's simply a matter of inserting the 8 metre central keel support (by hand) and assembling the arms and ribs. The foam inserts that are designed to fit snugly between the steel ribs and the hull are now on order from Polyformes Ltd of Leighton Buzzard.
Meanwhile, I am getting quotes in for the removal of the bank in the foreground of the photograph (see my previous post dated 4th March 2013).

Monday, 15 April 2013

ICON Positive Futures 2013

No post this week as I have been attending the Institute for Conservation Triennial Conference in Glasgow:
ICON Conference logo
It was a very stimulating two days and a chance to meet a lot of friends, old and new. Story telling and engagement with colleagues, friends and the public was a strong theme - keep watching this space!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The new cradle takes shape

The fabrication of the new cradle for Peggy has been a complicated job, with a good deal of discussion and refinement along the way. In this photo, Kevin from Galla's Foundry in Douglas checks the profiles for the ribs that will eventually support the boat.

... and in this one you can see the lifting superstructure that will protect and support the boat when eventually we lift her out of the boat cellar by crane.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A sister for Peggy?

The Windermere Steamboat Museum  lies on the southern shore of Lake Windermere in the English Lake District. Founded by George Pattinson and built up by him over the course of the last century, it houses a remarkable and significant collection of small freshwater craft. The collection is very important to the Peggy story because it includes a yacht, Margaret, of roughly the same size and possibly even older than Peggy herself (click here to find out more).
Margaret was one of two very early yachts 'discovered' in an abandoned dock in 1934. Unfortunately only Margaret survives although there remains an archive photograph of the two together. Because the boats were found on lands belonging to the Curwen family and had been there for as long as anyone could remember, a link to the Curwen family was firmly asserted in an article on the two yachts by W.M. Blake that appeared in Yachting Monthly in January 1935. This is where, from our perspective, the story gets really interesting...
When George Quayle took Peggy across the sea and overland to Windermere to race in the 1796 regatta, he stayed with the Christian-Curwen family on Belle Isle on the lake. It is therefore at least possible that Margaret is one of the boats against which Peggy was victorious on that famous occasion  (as George wrote to his brother, "Modesty prevents my saying who bears the Bell").

Isle of Man National Archive MS2414C
 George Quayle's letter to his brother from Belle Isle, Lake Windermere, 22nd August 1796. Isle of Man National Archive MS2414C

Quayle made the journey to Windermere along with another boat called Margaret, piloted by his friend Capt. Bacon. The Windermere Margaret is obviously not the one mentioned in Quayle's letters since he clearly describes the return of that boat to the Isle of Man (IOMNA MS 00940.5.C)
The Margaret now owned by the Windermere Steamboat Museum no longer retains any of her paint, spars or sails. While the date ascribed to her seems fair on stylistic grounds, the evidence for her true identity is currently circumstantial. It's possible that the ambitious renovation of the Windermere Steamboat Museum that is currently underway will provide the context for a thorough examination of her archaeology, age, and documentary background.

Friday, 15 March 2013

3D video clip

This just in from Conservation Technologies in Liverpool, our first glimpse of the colour rendered 3D scan of Peggy.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Progress update

To date I have been describing the context and background to our current activity. This is the first post of 'news'.
We are concentrating very hard at the moment on the 'Installation Phase', by which I mean the installation of the new support cradle, and we are under pressure of time for a variety of unavoidable reasons. As soon as we were able to agree the basic design, at the end of January, we instructed the fabricators to proceed. In the past two weeks we have been addressing in greater detail the method by which we will remove the boat from the cellar.
The design, a small glimpse of which I include here...

... is effectively for two cradles, one for display and the other for lifting. The lifting cradle has a superstructure of girders and braces to rigidify and reinforce it, whilst the display cradle is more refined. The display cradle will be galvanised, too, and eventually willl be painted. The central steel beam upon which the boat sits is common to both. The arms and ribs of the display cradle can be removed and replaced with those of the lifting cradle one at a time, meaning the boat will remain well-supported throughout.
We had imagined that the boat would be pulled out of the cellar on its lifting cradle, but in the event we have had to abandon this idea. This is because we checked and re-checked the tolerances and realised that the cellar opening would have to be widened by 15 cm. We did a little exploratory work on site and established that the door jambs are substantial and original. It wouldn't be possible to alter them. We have instead opted to modify the design of the display cradle a little to provide anchors for tensioning ropes; these will brace the arms, one to another. And Geoff Mitchell, Head of Technical Services at MNH, has devised some Teflon skids for the cradle that'll help it slip easily down the rails.
Geoff and I also took some careful measurements of the vertical distances in the cellar. We are confident that we have enough room to lift the boat sufficiently to allow us to insert the longitudinal girder. We have worked out how to get the girder into position using manhandling alone (it'll weight 400 kg). And we've also devised a means of laying the the rails before we lift the boat. And that reminds me, I've got to arrange for their delivery to site - can't stop! Until next week.....

Monday, 4 March 2013

How will we move the boat?

Once the new cradle has been installed (see below) we will be able to pull the boat out of the cellar and lift it out of the yard with a crane. In order for this to happen we have to make some preparations.

Archaeologist Andrew Johnson inspects the cellar floor
The first task is to have the floor properly assessed by Andrew Johnson, field archaeologist and Manx National Heritage Inspector of Ancient Monuments. He'll be able to tell us whether or not there is significant archaeological evidence there for the uses to which the cellar was put in the past.
Then we will lay railway rails on the cellar floor, under the boat. The rails will be secured to the floor in a way that doesn't interfere with any of the archaeological evidence Andy's looking for. It's on to these that we'll sit the new cradle.

Peggy in her cellar, seen from the yard outside
 We plan to remove Peggy from her cellar during 2014 . In the photo you will notice the photographer is standing on a sort of raised, grassy bank. In George Quayle's day we understand this area was a hollow, tidal pool. The bank of soil and rubble was added during the 19th century. We don't really know why it was added but we think perhaps it was to make use of the space for tethering farm animals. Anyway, most of it will need to be removed to enable use to extend the rails out of the cellar door. So Andy is also investigating the bank to see what it is made from and whether there may be interesting rubbish in it. He estimates there's about 30 tonnes of material there, and we'll have to excavate it with a mini-digger and take the material away with a crane - no mean task!
Once the rails are laid into the yard we can simply grease them and then pull the boat out, on its cradle, with winches (very much as George Quayle himself did 200 years ago). The cradle will then be reinforced with a superstructure of steel girders before being lifted onto a lorry.

Monday, 25 February 2013

What can we do about the environment in the cellar?

As I said before, the cellar in which Peggy sits is very wet. In fact 'a river runs through it', quite literally - though perhaps 'stream' would be a better description. Our first thought was to see whether we could regulate this environment. This would mean sealing the walls, floor and ceiling of the cellar against water from the stream and tidal flooding. It could only be acheived by 'tanking' the cellar, i.e. rendering the walls and floor with cement, rather like a swimming pool.
There are several problems with this plan. We cannot afford to cover or damage the walls and floor because they are of archaeological importance in their own right. We would also have to seal the ceiling and it's not clear how we could do that. The room would end up too small for the boat (!), and it's very unclear how the public would access the space. And finally, a structural engineer advised that the tidal pressure is so high in Castletown that it would be difficult to achor the 'tank' to the rock sufficiently strongly to safeguard the historic building above it!
This leaves us with two alternatives. Leave the boat where it is and do nothing, or remove it to a safe, controlled environment, off-site. We have agreed the latter.
We are fully aware of the radical impact this will have on the boat and building. Separating them is a grave step. So we plan to re-unite them somehow, in due course. Meanwhile we will take the opportunity to study and record the boat cellar, winding gear, boat, masts and spars. We will ensure that the public can see more, not less, of Peggy while we work. And we will take gradual and measured steps to stabilise and conserve Peggy herself.
In my next post I'll describe how we intend to move Peggy.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Our strategy

In my last post I introduced some of the work we have done that'll help us decide what action to take. The first priority is to make sure that Peggy is properly supported so that she can't hog or sag (see below if you can't remember what these mean). MNH commissioned local firm BB Consulting Engineers Ltd. ( to design a new support cradle based upon profiles taken from the laser survey described below. The design they have come up with is based upon a load-bearing spine with ribs. The construction will be in galvanised steel, and is more elegant and less visually intrusive than the current arrangement. Here is an impression of it:

General scheme of the proposed new support cradle
 The space between the ribs and the hull will be cushioned with inert, polythene foam. Polyformes Ltd. of Leighton Buzzard ( are supplying the foam, cut precisely to the profiles and dimensions taken from the laser survey. The cradle is being fabricated right now by Galla's Foundry here in Douglas.
We'll have to lift the boat to insert the new cradle. Unfortunately, this will not be easy! This is because 1. the cellar is very cramped: at its lowest level the ceiling is only 20 cm above the boat, and there is less than one metre between the boat and the walls; 2. we can't put pressure on the hull because its too fragile, and 3. we can't lift (e.g. with jacks) from under the keel because we want to sit the boat back down on the beam, illustrated above. We do have one thing in our favour however, which is that Peggy's keel is not the original one. In fact the current keel dates from 1950. Because of this we were able to secure the permission of the Trustees of Manx National Heritage to modify it by drilling three holes through it. We'll put bars through the holes and lift the boat using the bars. We are going to contract a specialist firm to undertake the lift using computer-controlled hydraulic jacks. The work is currently scheduled for May/ June this year, so watch this space for news in due course...

Monday, 11 February 2013

Making decisions

Deciding what to do with such an important object is challenging in many ways. We have to test our ideas and prejudices by asking for advice and analysing data. Peggy is loved and admired by many, not only on the Isle of Man but also further afield, and it's very important that we proceed carefully and rationally when we make decisions.
National Historic Ships UK have been very helpful to us in finding ways forward. They made a special case for Peggy to be included on the NHS Register in spite of her location (the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom) and size (she's too small to be a 'ship'). The statement of significance for Peggy that they published on their website has been very useful. And they have helped us find professional consultants when that has proved necessary.
One example of this was our invitation to Eura Conservation Ltd. of Telford ( to survey Peggy in 2010. Their report is a very valuable addition to our knowledge of the boat. They showed in detail what a monument she is to long-lost boat building techniques, and gave us a clear insight into her structure and weaknesses.

This drawing accurately records the eccentricity of Peggy's frames.
Peggy's frames (image curtesy of Eura Conservation Ltd.)

Their report re-affirmed Peggy's importance through a number of features not properly recognised before. There'll be many more of these as we begin to study her in greater detail.

One of the great mysteries is how and in what colours Peggy was painted. The quantity of original paint left on her is absolutely unique for a vessel of her age (and there are very few of those), but it's completely covered by the paint applied in 1950. The appearance of the original paint was not recorded. It's possible that we may one day see those early colours once again, but first we must get an idea of what is there and how extensive it is. We commissioned Crick Smith Conservation ( to undertake a preliminary survey of small samples removed from the hull. It showed many interesting things, amongst which that the hull was once duck-egg blue...

Paint cross sections from Peggy (image courtesy of Crick Smith/ University of Lincoln)

With these reports and with the environmental data and the analysis of the corroded nails, we feel confident to make a firm case for action...

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Hogging and Sagging

As I mentioned in my first post, Peggy has been propped upright on frames since 1950. We don't know exactly what she weighs, though we estimate about 2.5 tonnes.
Last week I introduced some of the ways in which the boat has decayed since she was made, and showed how her fixings (nails) are failing and damaging her. We wanted to be absolutely clear about this so, in 2010 I removed five timber core samples from the hull, each containing an iron nail.

Me removing core samples from Peggy's hull
I sent the samples to Dr David Watkinson of Cardiff University for analysis. David is one of the world's leading experts on marine archaeological iron. His tests showed that in every case there was practically no metallic iron left where the nails should have been, only rust. They also showed high amounts of sea salt (= bad) and advanced mineralisation (acid attack) of the surrounding timber. The failure of her nails puts Peggy's timbers under strain.
Wooden ships and boats often bend and warp if they develop structural faults or if they are otherwise put under unnatural strain. The commonest of these are termed hogging and sagging.
You might expect Peggy to have sagged because she is not evenly supported all along her hull as she would have been when she was afloat. In fact you can see that she has if you look at the distorted shape of the timbers adjacent to the 1950 props.
Hogging refers to bending of the keel. Its not easy to assess this in the tight space of the boat cellar. However in 2012 we commissioned a 3D laser survey of Peggy's hull, with the generous assistance of National Historic Ships UK (see links to the right of this post). You can clearly see the keel is slightly bent, a little like a 'hog's back'.

A preliminary scan image of Peggy showing hogging. The colours represent separate patches of data.

Next time I'll discuss how we came to decide what needed to be done to preserve Peggy.