If you’ve seen the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World, you’ve seen some of Ralph Johnson’s handiwork. Johnson crafted several hundred pieces of traditional sailing tackle for the movie’s tall ship HMS Surprise.
Included in the gear list was mast hoops — hand-bent pieces of white oak that allow a sail to slide up and down the mast. Though mast hoops aren’t as widely used today, they do wear out and fail on the boats that require them. That’s where Johnson enters the picture.
This video shows Johnson at his Pert Lowell Co. shop in Newbury, Massachusetts, fabricating hoops as large as 32 inches in diameter for the 219-foot lumber schooner C.A. Thayer, which is berthed at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Johnson is one of only a handful of woodworkers who have the tools and skills to craft them.
Read more about Johnson and the Pert Lowell Co. in a Walking The Plank feature in the upcoming April issue of Soundings.