Departure from South Street
|Arrival Caddell Dry Dock and
Repair Co. Staten Island ~
May 2015 - September 2016
When the newly built yard No. 231 slid down the ways at the shipyard of Oswald, Mordaunt & Co., Southampton in 1885, Wavertree was christened as Southgate
and was originally ordered by the famous Liverpool firm R.W Leyland & Co., but completed as Southgate after another Liverpool ship owner Chadwick &
Pitchard, purchased her on the stocks from R.W. Leyland & Co. In 1888 she was bought back by R.W. Leyland & Co., Liverpool, and was renamed Wavertree.
She originally carried a spanker boom and a skysail yard over her royals on the mainmast as shown in the earliest photograph of Wavertree. This same photo shows
several variations in Wavertree’s life as a Deepwater square-rigger than depicted in all subsequent photographic and artwork sources:
- The name Wavertree is painted more on the shoulder of the bows than
above the trailboards.
- The topgallant and royal braces are rigged as whips - not with long
pendants to gun tackles with the fall leading to deck.
- A spanker boom is rigged.
Ships have never been built for posterity, and to find Wavertree still afloat
after over 130 years is beyond remarkable and a signal of her significance as
an iconic survivor from the Great Age of Sail. That is only half of the story,
for the balance of Wavertree’s tale is found in each of her admirers and
suitors, in her wonderful stewards, in the amazing dedicated group of staff
and volunteers of South Street Seaport Museum… in other words, in all the
people who care about her and rejoice that she is in our world.
Sailing ships are large complex machines with a limited life-span of
consumptive use, and although they have inspired affection and sometimes
wonderment in the hearts of sailors and shore bound souls, it is only quite
recently that they have come to be seen as salient icons of our vanishing
maritime heritage. I am so pleased that Wavertree has navigate a course to
the good souls of South Street Seaport Museum and the citizenry of New
After over 130 years battling the seas of Cape Horn and navigating through
the shoals of the breaker’s torch, she has found her Fiddler’s Green and can
now rest in the tide as the Dowager Queen of the Seas that she is and tell her
story for years to come.
|Oldest known photograph of Wavertree early 1890's
(click photo for larger size)
One of those missing details is replicating the fore and main brace
boomkins or "bumkins" that supported the lead blocks for the fore and main
yard and topsail braces. This piece of gear was hinged to allow it to be
drawn aft against the hull when the ship was alongside a wharf. When
extended, it was perpendicular to the hull with a chain preventer or
backrope to counter the pull of the braces and had a cam shaped foot to act
as a failsafe if the chain parted to prevent the bumkin from ranging
forward. On the photograph of Fulwood, one of Wavertree's near sister
ships, the bumkin can be seen in its retracted position alongside the hull.
The detective work on researching and drawing up plans to recreate and
on the hull items of missing gear is something I find very rewarding and I
am very proud of the recreated bumkins and fore brace sister blocks, and
main brace pedestal blocks.
All the dedicated efforts of this Wavertree restoration has been to have a
ship with strong historic integrity or in the words of my mentor and who
discovered Wavertree in Buenos Aires, Karl Kortum, "one feels the patina
|The following photographs and text documents the 2015-16 restoration of
Wavertree. It begins with rigging down Wavertree, drydocking the hull,
refurbishing or renewing the rigging, stepping masts and crossing yards.
First task was a thorough inspection
of all spars and rigging from a crane
basket. The existing rigging was in a
very deteriorated condition and I did
not trust the intefgrity of the tops
wood decking, rat battens, lifts, and
Crojack yard and mizzen tops -
wooden decking was very suspect
- note badly deteriorated service
on rigging wires.
Main mast tops
Fore topmast hounds
Main stay at doubling with rotten
leather chafe gear - note good
condition of galvanized wire
Parted service and rot pockets
at fore topmast rigging gang.
Heel of fore topmast was so
rotten that a steel scarcophagus
was used to relieve the stresses
on the timber.
Rotten topmast heel at
toprope sheave - note
steel box beam support
weld to topmast fid.
Leave mast in place and pull
Perma-Ballast being installed.
Each floor/frame bay has 2000
lbs. of Perma-Ballast.
Note the soft ballast bladders
filled with water mid-ships and
the foremast stpe in foreground.
I have been asked why we are not rigging Wavertree with skysails on the main and without a spanker boom. Since we have a very high resolution glass plate
negative showing no skysails and spanker boom and only one very poor quality image of Wavertree with skysails and spanker boom, it was decided to center the
restoration and reconstruction efforts on the San Francisco image of Wavertree at anchor below Telegraph Hill. I have annotated several images highlighting the lack
of spanker boom and skysail gear in documenting our efforts.
With Wavertree’s rebirth from hulk to her halcyon days as a beautiful full rigged sailing ship, we are very fortunate to have both photographs, contemporary
paintings, and oral histories of what she or her close sister ships looked like to lead our restoration efforts. And with so much of the original ship remaining, we are
not yet faced with the ship of Theseus paradox about whether a ship that had been restored by replacing every single wooden part remained the same ship.
In all rigging replications from the initial efforts of South Street Seaport Museum to our current efforts with the rigging, we are endeavoring to replace or replicate in
as near a like fashion as is possible. When we are faced with recreating elements that contribute or define her historical significance as a large British full rigged
ship from the 1880’s we are using best practices when restoring or recreating damaged or missing features known to have been present during a period of her career.
The period chosen or the snap shot in time selected is the highly detailed ship portrait made while she was anchored in San Francisco in the early 1890’s.
Wavertree by Oswald Brett
When the newly built yard No. 231 slid down the ways at the shipyard of
Oswald, Mordaunt & Co., Southampton in 1885, Wavertree was christened as
Southgate and was originally ordered by the famous Liverpool firm R.W
Leyland & Co., but completed as Southgate after another Liverpool ship
owner Chadwick & Pitchard, purchased her on the stocks from R.W. Leyland
& Co. In 1888 she was bought back by R.W. Leyland & Co., Liverpool, and
was renamed Wavertree.