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VIDEO: Mast Hoop Loop-The-Loop

Ralph Johnson with Pert Lowell Co. in Newbury, Massachusetts, crafts a large wooden mast hoop. 

Ralph Johnson with Pert Lowell Co. in Newbury, Massachusetts, crafts a large wooden mast hoop. 

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.



VIDEO: Shipwrights: The Next Generation

Luke Powell is leading a team of boatbuilders who are crafting a recreation of a 68-foot Falmouth Pilot Cutter named Vincent, which was originally launched in 1852. The goal of the project is to train up aspiring young shipwrights in the traditional methods required to build these graceful wooden sailboats.

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VIDEO: Of Mouse And Mayflower

The Mayflower II, a 1957 reproduction of the original ship that brought Pilgrims to the New World nearly 400 years ago, is undergoing a complete refit at the Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut. Among the upgrades she is receiving are all-new stays for her three masts. This video from the museum shows how a rigger fabricates a mouse — an elaborate work of marlinspike seamanship — for each stay.


Head: VIDEO: The Home Stretch

Launched on Oct. 5, 1889 at Tilghman Island, Maryland, the bugeye Edna E. Lockwood is undergoing a complete restoration at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland. Among the work completed to date was the total removal and replacement of her nine-log bottom. This video has an update about the wrap-up work being done before Edna is relaunched later this year.

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VIDEO: The Art Of The Prop

This video from Yamaha Outboards shows the art and craft of making modern outboard engines and demonstrates the surprisingly ancient techniques used to create cutting-edge propellers.


Handcrafting Pellew

Working Sail is a British organization that is working to keep the art and craftsmanship of traditional wooden boatbuilding alive. Their latest project is Pellew, a recreation of a 68-foot Falmouth Pilot Cutter named Vincent, which was launched in 1852. This video shows some of the methods and materials being used to build her.


VIDEO: The loveable catboat

Those who appreciate catboats – with their beamy, rounded hulls, un-stayed masts, gaff rigs and ultra-long booms – find that these traditional sailboats are hard to beat, when it comes to practical design and pleasurable sailing.

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VIDEO: The Lonely Life Of A Swordfish

A popular target among anglers, the swordfish is a solitary billfish that can be found as deep as 1,800 feet below the surface. Equipped with huge, softball-size eyes that allow it to see in the darkness of the abyss, swordfish use their broad, sword-like bills to slash and stun prey. This NOAA video shows a swordfish at 1,739 feet doing just that.


Building Arabella By Hand

Plenty of people might call friends Stephen Denette and Alix Kreder crazy. The two are building a 38-foot Atkins ketch in their backyard — from the keel up, using trees they felled and milled themselves.