In early 2010 we were commissioned by the Trust of the HMAS Castlemaine, moored on the Gem Pier in Williamstown, to restore the ship’s 27’ Montagu whaler. The life boat was delivered to me on the back of a truck and work commenced. Eight planks on either side were split or beyond repair, most of the ribs were either broken or rotten and the bilge of the boat had sagged around the centreboard case so much, that the thwarts were the only thing holding the boat together.
The first task was to remove all the paint from the inside and out, a difficult task with a clinker hull. The boat was then rolled over and suspended upside down for a few months, to let gravity do some of the work of getting the boat roughly in the right shape again. The boat was templated and ply bulkheads were made to support the boat whilst the damaged planking and ribs were removed. New gunwhales were steam bent and fastened around the boat, and new thwarts and knees were fitted, this helped stiffen things up considerably.
All the damaged planking was removed and kept for templates. New planking was fitted whilst the boat was upside down. Once all the new planking was fastened the boat was rolled the right way up, ready for the new ribs. Approximately 50% of the ribs had to be replaced, again the steam box got a work out. Once the couple of thousand copper nails had been roved and the boat refastened it was time to apply an epoxy wood preserver. Then the painting process began. First the inside of the boat was done. The boat was then rolled upside down, again, noticibly stiffer than the first time it was rolled, so the outside could be painted.
The final touches were applied and the boat was trucked back to Williamstown to rejoin the ship in time for the 70th anniversary. The boat was launched, for the first time in 30 odd years and towed back to the ship, where it now rests in its davits.