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.