Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Travelogue – shipbuilding

Some things can't be explained. After putting up with the racket the CD player was making every time I turned on the car, I very much noticed this evening when it didn't. The next time I turned on the car it made its clicking noise on only two of the four attempts to reset itself. And the time after that... The player took a much longer time to attempt a cycle. Then I realized it wasn't attempting, it was actually doing – the row of circles for the six CDs it holds blinked one at a time. Once it settled down I turned it on – It worked! I could hear my CDs again! I think I'll let the current set play through (though they had been in the player for a couple months before the trip) before attempting to swap in new ones. Why it stopped working and why it started again on day 13 of the trip will remain a mystery.

My main reason for choosing a B&B in Wincasset last night was to see the Music Wonder House this morning. It is a mansion in town filled with all manner of mechanical music boxes. Or was. It closed last May. The website didn't mention the closure. I went back to the B&B to get my car and the closure was a surprise to the owners.

Oh well. Onward. I went to Bath to see the Maine Maritime Museum. To get to the museum one drives past the Bath Iron Works, who currently make big toys for the Navy. The museum is on the site of a shipbuilding company, active 1894-1920. They closed that year because they made wood sail boats and iron steam boats finally became more profitable. Switching from one to the other wasn't possible because two completely different sets of workers were needed.

I got there in time for a tour, then wandered through the existing buildings – blacksmith shop, mill and wood shop, pattern shop, paint shop, and a Victorian home (owner of the shipyard next door). The whole thing showed how many different kinds of workers were needed and how coordinated their efforts needed to be.

When a designer finished the design, he painted the floor of the pattern shop, then drew the ribs of the ship on the floor. Others would use those marks to make full size patterns of the ribs. Those patterns would be put on ships to find trees of a close enough shape. The trees would be brought back and milled and cut to the pattern. The mill had openings on both ends of the building to give workers room to maneuver the wood.

This company contracted out the sail work and the rigging – the ropes that held it all together. Rope was made in a long narrow building and the ropemaker walked from one end to the other and back as he worked. A sign said a prominent ropemaker in town walked well over 100,000 miles during his career.

As I looked through the displays I kept thinking my dad would be fascinated by it all.

This strange piece of art represents the Wyoming, the largest ship made in this yard. The U shaped piece at the far end is the actual size of the prow of the ship. The flagpoles represent the six masts (though they would have been taller). Behind me is another strange sculpture showing the stern. All of this is on the spot where that ship had been assembled.

There has been shipbuilding in Bath for more than two centuries. At one time a seaman would see Bath-built ships in every port around the world. It is an ideal place due to the depth and width of the Kennebec River (one didn't want to launch a ship and have it run aground or crash into the opposite shore). One more feature in its favor is the gentle slope leading to the river to allow for easy launching.

I went for a late lunch in Bath, then headed out of town. The drive to North Conway, New Hampshire was a bit over 2.5 hours. I'm now in the White Mountains area. This photo is just a few miles before the NH border. It is in the city of Naples, ME looking down the length of Long Lake towards the mountains.

I'm a bit surprised (yet pleased!) by the level of trust around here. I got to my B&B, the Spruce Moose, and found the owners were out. There was a sign by the desk explaining why they weren't there and listing my room number and where the stairway was. Beside that was a phone and a number to call. Alas, I had to leave a message, so simply said I had arrived. I took my bags up to the room. The key was in the door. I left for supper. On my return I met the owners and she showed me around and told me all that I needed to know.

There was also a lot of trust last night. I asked the owner for a key to the room. He said, “I can give you one but you won't need it.” I stuck the key in my pocket and decided not to lock the room.

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