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Answers to Quiz #32- October 21, 2005

What do these men do for a living?
What kind of boat is this?

Bonus question: What is the tool they are holding?
Submitted by Margaret Waterman.
Click on thumbnail to see larger image.
The men are caulkers.
The ship is a four-masted gaff schooner,
common along the eastern seaboard around the turn of the 20th century.
The men are holding caulking mallets.
Note to Margaret Waterman from her brother-in-law:

Hi Margaret,

There are telephone/telegraph lines in the background and the boat tied to the dock is a
motor launch. The mast on the launch is only for a steadying sail. It must be
somewhere with a very high tide to float a ship with that much draft. The further north
you go, the higher the tide. The ship is not new in this photo, all sails are bent to the
rigging. It is probably just dry for routine maintenance and could be anywhere in the

Four Masted Schooner

Four Masted Schooner shown at
anchor. This design attempted to
reduce individual sail area, raise
tonnage, and still manage with a
small crew. In the early days sails
A gaff sail is a fore-and-aft sail with four corners and four
edges. The lowest edge is called the foot and is attached to a
horizontal spar called a boom. The vertical edge that is attached
to the mast is called the luff; the upper edge is called the head
and is attached to a spar called a gaff. The remaining edge is
the leech. The corner between the luff and the head is called the
throat, between the head and the leech is the peak, between the
leech and the foot is the clew, and the remaining corner is
called the tack. Schooners are usually rigged with gaff sails,
and most square rigged vessels have a gaff sail on their aft mast
called the spanker. Above the gaff is often rigged a triangular
sail called a gaff topsail.
Caulking Mallets
The men are ship caulkers, holding
caulking mallets. The mallets were
soaked in okum and then crammed into
the seams between the ship planks.
They came in several sizes to
accommodate the different seam sizes.
At first I thought the tools might be augers with a T-handle but the metal fittings on the
ends of "handles" puzzled me.  I am a (minor) tool collector and have a few books on
the subject.  If you find yourself trying to identify workman's tools, I recommend
Dictionary of Woodworking Tools" by R.A. Salaman.  It lists tools both by the type of
tool and by the occupation.  I found the caulking mallets in that book.  I had more
trouble find out what kind of ship it was, but there are a few good websites describing
types of ships.

The utility lines remind me of the telegraph lines that travel along railroad tracks - so
maybe they're telegraph lines.  Also, how did they get the ship out of the water.  Was it
hauled by a winch?  By locomotive?  

By the way, you have me hooked.  I cant wait for the next quiz (and the book).

John Chulick
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Contest #32 Answers
were hoisted by hand, but gradually the gasoline hoisting engine was introduced, saving
work, wages, and food. She could operate with eight hands, and reached 500 to 700
tons. At the turn of the century these schooners were used in the coastal trade between
Canada and the United States, the West Indies, South America, and some trans-Atlantic
voyages were made to Europe and West Africa. Nova Scotians built and operated
between seven and eight hundred big schooners, but by World War I most had passed
out of the picture. Along the New England coast a number of five and six masted
schooners were built, plus one seven master, the steel hulled Thomas W. Lawson.


The Oxford Companion to Ships and The Sea

Dutch schooner, German schoner, Danish skonnert, Spanish and Portuguese escaña, all
possibly derived from the Scottish verb "to scon or scoon," to skip over water like a
flat stone. An alternative source for the name is said to have come from a chance
remark "there she scoons" from a spectator at the launch of the first vessel of the type
at Gloucester, Mass. in 1713. There is also some evidence that the type originated in
North America and probably at Gloucester. Whatever the origin of the name a schooner
is a vessel rigged with fore-and-aft sails on her two or more masts, and originally
carried square sails on her foremast, though later, with the advance in rig designs, these
were changed to jib-headed or jackyard-topsails. Today, the small schooner yachts
normally set Bermuda sails and thus have no topsails. Properly speaking, a schooner
has two masts only, with the mainmast taller than the fore, but three-masted,
four-masted, and five-masted schooners have been built, and one, the Thomas W.
Lawson, had as many as seven. They were largely used in the coasting trade and also
for fishing on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, their attraction to owners being that
they required a smaller crew than a square-rigged vessel of comparable size.

Chapman: Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling

Schooners are fore-and-aft rigged (as distinguished from square-rigged) and have two
or more masts. Unlike yawls and ketches, the after mast of a two-masted schooner is
taller than the forward one (in rare designs, the two masts may be the same height).
Thus the after mast becomes the mainmast and the other the foremast. Additional
names are used if there are more than two masts.

International Maritime Dictionary

Compared with the square rig, the fore-and-aft schooner has the advantage of being a
better craft when sailing close-hauled and requiring a smaller crew. ... In Nova Scotia
inshore fishermen used schooner-rigged open boats about twenty feet in length which
are probably the smallest craft with this rig.