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Accuracy vs. Safety vs. Profit, Moshulu Dress Rig

James L. White


In the spring of 1995, I was hired to re rigged the Moshulu. The legendary Moshulu , a four-masted barque of 3,200 tons gross, was built by William Hamilton & Co., Glasgow, Scotland in 1904 for the G.J.H. Siemers Co. of Hamburg , Germany. Originally launched as the KURT, this state of the art sailing ship was the finest and latest of man's achievements in the world's shipbuilding industry. The vessel has a length of 335 feet (b.p.), a beam of 47 feet and a depth of 28 feet to the main deck. She was heavily constructed and sparred for the long and arduous passage around Cape Horn. When World War I broke out, Siemers ordered the Kurt to remain in port (Astoria, Oregon) for the duration to be safe from British cruisers. When the United States entered the war , the Kurt was appropriated by the U.S. government. The Kurt was first renamed the Dreadnaught and then the Moshulu by Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. The Moshulu sailed under the American flag until 1935 when she was bought by Gustaf Erickson. It was under Gustaf Erickson's ownership that she took part in the famous "grain races" of the 1930's. After a passage from Buenos Aires in 1939, the Moshulu lay in Kristiansand, Norway, a nation that was occupied by Nazi forces. In November of 1942, she was towed to Oslo fjord and at the orders of the German military command was rigged down. Moshulu was used as a floating warehouse into the 1950's until she was purchased by the Finnish State Granary in 1957 to become a grain storage hulk in Finland. In the 1970's , she was discovered by Capt. Raymond E. Wallace in the bay of Nantalia, Finland. Capt. Wallace contacted David Tallichet of Specialty Restaurants Corp. Mr. Tallichet purchased the Moshulu to be used as a restaurant-museum. A shipyard in Scheveningen, Holland, was contracted to fabricate masts, yards and standing rigging as merely a "show rig" as designed by Capt. Wallace. This "show rig" was much lighter than her original rolled , riveted and tapered spars. The standing rig was also sized down and of 6x19 wire rather than the original 6x7 wire construction. After the shipyard period, she was towed across the Atlantic to first South Street, New York, then to Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Moshulu thus began her new career as a restaurantÉ a four-masted salad barque.

In the mid 1980's a fire of suspicious origins broke out in the electrical control room. Fire and smoke/water damage resulted in the closing down of the restaurant. While Moshulu languished in her burnt out state, she was vandalized and stripped of a lot of her gear. Her rigging began to deteriorate, climaxed by the crashing to deck of her fore lower and upper topsail yards after the lifts carried away.

In 1995, Moshulu was purchased by H.M.S. Ventures, Inc., which planned to restore the vessel to her "salad days" as a restaurant. Capt. Wallace, who was once again involved with the ship as designer/ construction superintendent hired me to supervise and run the rigging crew. I was originally told that "historical accuracy" was to be paramount in the restoration of the rig. After the first week, I learned that the owners wanted a "show rig" in the best tradition of Disneyland. They did not want the most "historically accurate" rig possible (given the non historic spars and rig in situ), which was what brought me to the project in the first place. This shift in thinking resulted in the conflict of "Historical Accuracy vs. Safety vs. Profit" that I , with a background as a traditional and Historic Ship's rigger, now faced.

How much authenticity, in at least a salutary comparison to the ship in her sailing days, could I squeeze out of an unrealistically low budget? Original estimates on refurbishing the rig ranged from $24,000 to $140,000. Before I became involved with the project, the owners were told by various people that the job of refurbishing the rig could be done for about $160,000. 2 weeks after my arrival, I submitted a bare bones budget of $197,000. The owners set the final budget at $177,000. This was the budget that dictated reusing "frozen" bottlescrews, replacing old and rusted wire only where safety was involved, not serving footropes, etc. The final cost of refurbishing the "show" rig was a little over $200,000. At least the turnbacks on the standing rig have 4 seizings and not canvas covered cable clips as proposed by a previous rigger.

The following items are some of the issues that were faced in the re rigging of the Moshulu. ( slides will be used)

Use of 2 flat wire seizings and 2 fiber flat seizings instead of using 4 round wire seizings on shrouds and backstays.

The time involved in turning in 3/16" wire round seizings was cut by 75%. The safety factor was not compromised due to the built in redundancy of multiple shrouds and backstays. After applying a test wire flat seizing using 3/16" galvanized annealed 1x7 wire, a 3 ton chain fall was bent onto the tail and loaded up. No movement or racking was observed in the seizing. Since this rig would not be loaded with high sail generated forces, the 2 flat wire seizings with 2 flat fiber are within the safety parameters. The flat fiber seizings were made out of black 3/16' polypropylene. The fiber seizings were used since they required only one person to be clapped on unlike the wire seizings that required two people. (Explain ideal vs. actual course of action.)

Use of 4 round wire seizings on all stays

Since the stays were single with no built in redundancy, 4 round seizins were needed to achieve the safety factor desired. (Explain ideal vs. actual course of action.)

Use of 80 grit sandpaper to scuff up galvanized wire footropes

Properly wormed, parceled and served footropes were not used to save money. The time it would take to worm, parcel and serve 36 footropes was substantial. Use of slippery bare galvanized wire footropes was a safety concern. By scuffing the galvanizing a rust "tooth" was created to prevent slipping. (Explain ideal vs. actual course of action.)

Bottlesrews used as dumb sheaves.

The bottlescrews and solid thimbles in the rig were all deteriorated and full of rust and scale. This was caused by not using an anti-seizing grease when first rigged in Holland along with a lack of maintenance. Almost every bottlescrew had water in the lower body of the bottle, which over time froze up all the bottlescrews. After using an oxygen/acetylene torch and a 6 foot cheater bar to break the upper and lower threads free, only 29 out of a total of 140 bottlescrews were successfully broken loose with the upper and lower threads free to turn. Out of the remaining 111 bottlescrews , 96 had upper threads free to turn and the lower threads frozen solid, another 15 were frozen solid at both upper and lower threads. To apply tension to the rig it was necessary to use one good bottlescrew on the forward shroud in a gang and on all the stays. A burton pendent was rigged from the lower futtock palm on each mast with a 1.5 ton chain fall bent on to it. The tail of the turnback of the stay, shroud, or backstay was clapped on to the chain fall and then hauled upon until the wire was tight. The use of tallow around the solid thimbles helped the wire render around. The wire and fiber seizings were then clapped on. The final tuning of the rig required the upper eye of the bottlescrews with frozen lower threads to be loosened and not tightened, since the laying up of the wire more than counteracted the opening up of the bottlescrew. The use of non historic 5/8" galvanized steel round stock as ratlines tied everything together by firming up the rig. (Explain ideal vs. actual course of action.)

Shorten and plug weld fore, main, and mizzen topgallant/royal masts.

Several years ago, the fore, main, and mizzen topgallant/royal masts were cut down with an oxygen/acetylene torch. The cuts, very rough and uneven, were made just above the cap iron while a shore-side crane was hooked up to the mast. After the cutting, the mast section above the cap iron was place on deck. The heel of the mast was left in the doubling. The mast heels could not be struck to deck due to the steel fids being rusted solid in place and the fact that there was a large pad eye at the topmast head for crossing the upper topsail yard in it's raise position if desired (there a no halyards or tye chains rigged on any yard, only pseudo crane fittings). The heels were about 14 feet long. Sleeving the mast above the cap iron where the weight of the steel lower and upper topgallant and royal yards would bear solely on the welded sleeve with no additional support given by the doubling, was a major safety concern of mine The combined weight of the topgallant and royal yards was over 9,500 pounds. To sleeve the mast above the cap iron would also involve the added expense of hiring a crane, since the heel could not be struck to deck using ship's gear. I wanted the plug welded sleeve to be below the cap iron so the doubling would give the sleeved mast extra support and bury. This method was decided upon after consultation with a structural engineer. This method, however, required the lower topgallant yard to be crossed at the doubling instead of the cap iron. To make it easier for the welders, the heels were cut off at 5 feet above the cross trees. Doing this allowed the welders to stand on the trees in addition to not having to rig staging at the masthead. A sleeve was plug welded to the topgallant mast on shore. The mast was then raised by a shore side crane and lowered into the cap iron and plug welded to the heel. (Explain ideal vs. actual course of action.)

Turnbuckle preventer slings on lower and upper topsail, lower and upper topgallant, and royal yards.

Since the Moshulu had a recent history of spars crashing to deck and since the new owners had the misplaced idea that they could use an off-duty waiter with a tarbrush to look after the rig, yard preventer slings became a safety item. No rig is maintenance-free, as we in the ship restoration game know all too well. Preventer slings were fabricated out of a turnbuckle/pad eye combination. Pad eyes were welded on the mast above the yard cranes and at the sling of the yard with the turnbuckle spanning the two. By taking some tension on the turnbuckle some of the strain on the yard lifts and cranes was relieved. (Explain ideal vs. actual course of action.)

In summary the Moshulu is a restaurant. She is not a museum ship. She now earns her keep not by hauling nitrates, but by taking dinner reservations. Her crew serve Caesar salads instead of wire. The show rig reflects these compromises in that instead of supporting acres of canvas it now is only something for the dinner patron to look at while awaiting a table. To quote Alex Hurst "ÉIf it is desired to preserve an historic building - perhaps a famous old restaurant - there would be an outcry if it were converted to look like a square-rigger, if that were possible".

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