Two gold stars from the USCG!

Every year, the United States Coast Guard requires passenger vessels of all vintage and design to go through rigorous inspections for the protection of the passengers, crew, and other vessels out on the water. This past week, Timberwind was ready for her look under the hull, so to speak. 

Even though she's a tough Maine girl, it has been awhile since she was last hauled out of the water, and like any wooden boat, she is a continuous work-in-progress. Moreover, effective stewardship of an 84-year old National Historic Landmark requires constant attention, so even during sailing days and turnarounds, it's common to see the crew aloft tending to the rig or touching up paint that's starting to show wear.

But no matter how routine her annual physicals are, there is always a bit of trepidation, so when the local Belfast Coast Guardsmen, dressed in their work blues and wielding their bright red hammers and clipboards, made their appearance at the Front Street Shipyard we were cautiously optimistic.

"Good grief," our Coastie exclaimed while swinging dead-blow after dead-blow on Timberwind's hull. "She's like steel under here." 

Our sighs of happiness were audible.  "She's a Mainer, Sir. Built by the best."

So, she passed the hull inspection with flying colors! Next came the fastenings inspection. Where the hull inspection gauges the integrity of the wood itself, the fastening inspection focuses on the galvanized steel spikes that hold everything together. They're roughly 5 inches long with a diameter nearly the size of a pinky finger (at least the diameter of my pinky finger), and when they are hammered into place, they're driven in with the intention that they won't be coming out any time soon. 

 Staples-- er... nails-- of the trade

Staples-- er... nails-- of the trade

However, every six years, the USCG requires that they randomly check a number of fastenings for any corrosion issues, thus showing problems with the steel or the hull itself.

But, you may ask, How do they check the fastenings when they're inside the wood? A marvelous question! The process often requires cutting into planks, welding threaded rods to the fastenings, and generally making more clean-up and repair work than we'd like to do on our already full schedule.

That's where we turned to another friend of the Timberwind, Chuck Wagner, owner of Pleasantview Fabrication in Warren, Maine. Using his masterful skills of fabrication, he crafted a slide hammer of his own design that would minimize the plank damage caused by removing each fastening (via tap and die method). It worked like a charm, yielded great results and most importantly, less work!  Even the boys in blue took a moment to admire Chuck's fabrication.

 The magical slide hammer!

The magical slide hammer!

After a few hours of poking and pounding, the USCG gave us the all clear, signing off on both inspections. *Cue fanfare and parade*. 

Now that those days are in our wake, we're happy that we can get back to making her beautiful again.

 Megan, working on fastening clean-up.

Megan, working on fastening clean-up.

Special thanks to our heroes in uniform at USCG Sector New England that work so diligently to keep everybody on the water safe. Also, if you have an interesting challenge that needs an expert welder or fabricator, we highly recommend Chuck Wagner at Pleasantview Fabrication.  He can be reached at (207) 691-4003 or chuckw127@gmail.com.