We have begun the project to conserve and restore the rowboat Barbashela. The bateau was designed by steamboat Captain Thomas P. Leathers of Kentucky in the 1880s, he also oversaw the construction. Kentucky native Captain Leathers owned and operated the steamers Natchez, numbers II-VIII, primarily on the southern Mississippi River. He was most noted for a race he participated in against Captain Cannon and the steamboat Robert E. Lee in 1870. Captain Leathers was called Captain Push because of his friendship with the local Choctaw, they admired him and nicknamed him after their famous Chief Pushmataha. Barbashela is the Choctaw word for "friend" and the rowboat was a gift to Varina Anne "Winnie" Davis of Biloxi, MS, who was the daughter of Jefferson and Varina Davis. The skiff was rowed on Oyster Bayou by the Davis family home at Beauvoir and on the Mississippi Sound. When Barbashela is bayou worthy again she will head back to her historic home in Biloxi, MS.
Image credit: Historic Beauvoir, Jones, 1921.
Barbashela is an English variant of the Choctaw word for friends, and the hybrid bateau incorporates several unusual design features pulled from skiffs, dories and flatties. The rowboat measures just under 20 feet and is 4 1/2 feet on the beam, rather long and narrow for a river skiff. The dory type stern is narrow and the sides flare out at 60 degrees amidships. The hull is planked lengthwise and it has a very unique transition from a convex to concave shape from bow to stern which possibly reduces form drag. The hull shape is also rockered at the bow and from the last one third of the hull to the transom. There is also rocker athwartships. The internal framework consists of slender wooden knees sandwiched by two ribs that form a truss. 5 seats function as thwarts and rest on a sweeping stringer. A thick sole covers the frames.
The bateau was partially restored in the early 20th Century and was displayed at various times at Beauvoir in Biloxi, MS. She was originally rowed by Varina Anne "Winnie" Davis at the family home during the time frame of 1883-1893 and then subsequently maintained by custodians of Beauvoir through present day. Most likely it was repaired and rowed by numerous residents of Beauvoir’s Soldier’s Home. An informal survey of the bateau was conducted in 2001 by Russell Barnes and the bateau was then in generally good condition. Disaster in the form of Hurricane Katrina struck the residents of the Gulf Coast in August 2005 and the rowboat was severely damaged by wind, debris and storm surge. The hull was deformed vertically causing the beam to be widened. The entire port side of the boat is missing as well as the forward 6 feet of the bow planking and the stem. The starboard side and hull bottom are mostly intact although several sections of the forward starboard hull are broken off. The transom is partially intact as well as the stringers. Fortunately three of the thwart seats remain which will help determine the original beam shape.
The vision for this project is to repair and conserve the remnants of the bateau, and to restore the missing sections to seaworthy condition using a 1921 photo and 2001 informal survey of the vessel. The rowboat will then be displayed to the public at the Beauvoir Museum in Biloxi, MS. Proposed schedule is 12 months from receipt of vessel, desired completion Spring 2017.
Barbashela needs a little caulk but still wants to be a bateau.
Post Katrina image: Beauvoir, 2005.
Jan 2016 Assessment image: Lewis, 2016
We are funding the project. If you'd like to help purchase materials for Barbashela's restoration, please click on the paypal Donate button and toss a dollar in the pot. Any amount would be greatly appreciated, we are going to need just a little caulk. All donations will go towards Barbashela's restoration and preservation. Thank you!
28 Jan 16:
Picking up lumber at Building Supply Center to build a Barbashela transport cradle. We will graft it to our Daysailer trailer, and the weight/ride will balance out nicely. The 2x6x20s and plywood will also be used to build the jig. They also have some great spruce and Douglas fir. George helped me select the lumber, nice to have a 40 year employee and 100 Ton Master interested in our project!
2x6 20 footers strapped to frame and screwed to bunks as well. Then plywood was screwed into the 2x6s and bunks. Overall length of the deck will be 20 feet.
The severely damaged skiff would not ride on a regular trailer, so we built it a stretcher.
Heading to Biloxi, MS soon!
30 Jan 16:
"Barbashela" sees light for the first time since just after Hurricane Katrina.
Skipper checking for fair curves on "Barbashela".
Wrapping up the rest of the parts on "Barbashela" she still has the three seat thwarts!
Used all the tie downs, duct tape, plastic wrap and a few lines for the road trip. "Barbashela" made it up to 70mph, but she probably blew 145 plus in Hurricane Katrina.
Water view for the next few months.
Hey, stop drinking coffee and start scraping! "Barbashela" hanging out with her newest friends.
"Barbashela" has at least half of everything except for the forward 4 feet of bow planking, the stem, breasthook and forward seat.
1880s hardware, square nails.
Ready for the float test.
"Zip" and "Barbashela" swapping sea stories.
"Barbashela" says "What's a sail?"
31 Jan 16:
Started the assessment, measuring and cleaning today. We will cycle parts across the measuring table and record various dimensions. Today we were able to measure the seats (thwarts), transom and false bottom planks. The parts were then sent to the craft table to have old fasteners removed, where we found a few square nails from the late 1800s and more common nails. Next stop was the cleaning bench where we used Dawn dish detergent and water to remove years of dirt. Light scraping was done on the parts to remove flaked paint.
1880s rowboat forward seat and riser.
Skipper measuring the 1880s rowboat seat and riser.
1880s rowboat forward seat
Free labor on the 1880s rowboat! Skipper and her parents pulling nails, scraping and cleaning. I'm taking pictures :)
1880s rowboat paint chronology.
1880s rowboat cove detail.
1880s rowboat bilge under the false bottom.
1880s rowboat port bow frames and bottom plank.
Barbashela forward seat
Taking transom seat cleat measurements and plank bevel
Can't find the Hull ID Number anywhere! Maybe this is the bow....lets go check the other end...
Transom pattern draft.
Seat half pattern draft.
Seat patterns draft.
01 Feb 16:
Thanks Mystic Seaport for providing great small boat resources!
Chunk or port aft garboard plank, yay! It has the profile of how the bottom slopes up as it goes aft.
Skipper playing in the water
Original colors, sunflower?
Looks like juniper was sistered to the original cypress crossmembers and knees. That saved the boat from splitting in half.
02 Feb 16:
I know it says Eddie English Boat Trailer but today it is Barbashela strong back lumber and train table lumber trailer.
This oar is about the right length, Barbashela has a low freeboard and 4'10" beam.
20 foot by 30 inch wide strongback....well shoot I measured wrong so it is 19' 1"
smile emoticon Guess we'll add a bit to one end, probably for the stem.
20 foot bateau strongback and pile o tools.
Ready for frames.
03 Feb 2016:
Lots of paint from the 1800s was milk based, mixed with lime and pigment. I played around with mustard but Skipper found my testing site....
Skipper left me a note, how cute. I left her a note back :)
Slid BARBASHELA off of the trailer onto the strongback, it will be the assembly jig. Building another strongback, it will be the measuring and disassembly table. And yes, that's a blueberry iMac G3 on the shelf...
The frame was what we used to trailer Barbashela home, so we popped the plywood deck off of it and slid it off the trailer. We thought we'd try furniture dollies from Lowes as the base for the strongback. We added a few cross members and put legs on the dollies. I aleternated the direction of the legs to minimize the chance of everything leaning off one direction and prying the legs off.
Here is the furniture dolly strongback ready to go, it rolls great. I like how I got some board storage underneath, an unintended consequence.
Checking out the planks and gunwale.
Old repair/replacement, the butt joint didn't fair too well and we think this repair was purely cosmetic
Bow crossmember with a few small chunks of garboard left. There is enough left to use a batten and find the fair curve out to the stem...if it had a stem...I guess we'll make one!
We stabilized the side with tie down straps and noticed thet the boat was twisting to starboard due to the weight. So we piled the other boat bits back on the port side for balance and to let any twist or hog work its way out. Once she is back over on the measuring jig we will pit some support under those frame ends. She is used to it though, she rode the sawhorses this way for 11 years while she was in storage.
04 Feb 16:
12 inch wide by 24 foot board for the port garboard plank.
Bringing home some 5/4 and 6/4 cypress S4S to start on frames and transom.
05 Feb 16:
Barbashela prepping for Mardi Gras.
Skipper worked on the bilge a bit, cleaning flaked paint and dirt.
Checking out some paint colors on cypress. So far Whipped Apricot is in the lead. The plan right now is to "wash the hull" with an oil based paint or semi transparent stain, best protection available and easy to apply.
06 Feb 16:
Mid thwart and rowing station. Note the different width planking, almost 9 inches on the lower garboard, then it drops to 3 inch widths on the broad (middle) and sheer (top). The fasteners also changed from square nails to galvanized common nails, so that top planking was replaced at one point, probably mid 1900s.
Original lower plank (garboard) was very wide, planks above for the broad and sheer are narrower, indicating a replacement at one point over 130 years.
Getting a feel for oar length, these 8 footers would work but may be a tad short.
07 Feb 16:
Went under the boat too look for evidence of a keel batten. Found paint evidence of where it was. Keel batten was about 4 inches and went back about 4 feet.
Hunk of frame. Had a little dirt on it.
Didn't have a Spanish windlass handy to draw the starboard transom frame to proper bevel angle...
Cut a new transom frame, beveled and screwed in place.
Skipper is in charge of this, 1-2-3-4 layers of paint, but at least it was thick and lumpy...
Skipper is gaining ground on the aft seat. It will be horseshoe shaped ad have a slight crown. And it will not be grey..or white..or green...
Cutting plank bevel onto the transom frame arm.
Transom will be this shapeish, with a sculling notch.
08 Feb 16:
Scarfed a new top chunk onto the aft seat bulkhead, used Pettit Marine Paint Flexpoxy to adhere it. It is a great adhesive, fills gaps well, can be sanded and drilled and is good for use under the waterline as well. It is also stays flexible and can be molded and painted. Pretty much everything Barbashela needs for this part.
I think this is the biggest pile of tools I have ever had for one job, cutting new pieces for the stern.
Pettit Marine Paint Flexpoxy used to reattach the broken off piece of transom.
09 Feb 16:
The Penobscot 14 transom frame pattern gave me some reference to sketch out Barbashela's top curve and sculling notch.
Tracing station 18 frame so we can make a new one for the port side.
Tracing station 18 frame so we can make a new one for the port side.
10 Feb 16:
Just keep humming the "Bob the Builder" song...,hey that kind of looks like a fish...
Varina "Winnie" Davis
11 Feb 16:
Check out the reverse curve on this steamboat tender.
Cypress for transom and frames.
Denailing tools, removing loose square nail remnants.
12 Feb 16:
She'll come back together frame by frame. We'll fill the holes topside on the way towards the bow and flip her to get the bottomside last.
Working on the transom curve and sculling notch.
Nylon brushing the floorboards and using vacuum to catch dirt as it comes off.
13 Feb 16:
We took a measurement off the photo to get an estimate of the transom curve height, then freehanded an arc and cut it with a jigsaw. Left it a bit proud on top for a bevel.
Cleaning the planks.
Laying down a show coat of paint, to show us areas that need more attention. 2 sets of frames restored, 8 to go plus the stem.
14 Feb 16:
Skipper brushing off the dirt. We found a nylon wheel that fits on a drill, with light pressure and going with the grain is takes off the old paint but not the grain pattern.
She has a transom now, 1 3/8 inch cypress. We had to plane down an 8/4 (1 1/2") board to get the right thickness and attached it with Pettit Flexpoxy.
Chip, brush, scrape, sand and vacuum frame by frame. Check out the putty knife sticking through the seam. The good news is that we run out of boat parts soon as there is not much at the bow.
We can reuse this frame foot, but probably not the rusting nails.
Cut the sculling notch with a jigsaw, then used a diamond file to clean it up. We sized it for an 1 1/2" diameter oar.
Flooded a coat of oil based paint to season the cypress.
15 Feb 16:
Piecing together the old port side frame pieces to see what we have left for patterns, or possible reuse.
Inspector Jack has concerns about the taped frames, he says duct tape would work better.
Repairing frame crossmembers with Pettit Marine Paint Flexpoxy and silicone bronze wood screws.
Frame 8 starboard.
She has a few new pieces and repairs.
Fitting port frame 16.
Repairing frame crossmembers with Pettit Marine Paint Flexpoxy.and silicone bronze wood screws.
16 Feb 16:
Skipper cut out the 3/8 inch cypress plugs.
The plug cutter did a good job at cutting about a 1/2 inch plug. So the system that we found worked for us was to put 1/2 a glued plug in from below, drop some glue in the hole and push the other 1/2 in from the top. We could probably find 1 inch cypress plugs somewhere but we like the local cypress.
Filed off the top of the plug and sanded flush with 100 grit. Stole the Skipper's tiny dustpan.
Trimming out the rotted crossmember at frame 16.
Epoxy and screws to attach the new piece to the 19th Century crossmember. It can now share the load with the forward crossmember that was sistered sometime in the 20th Century.
Port side frame 16 ready for action. We will trim it once the planks are hung.
Old frame will be retired.
Pondering frames 14, 12 and 10.
26 Feb 16:
Fast Forward, we are framed up to station 6, sealing up cracks, plugging nail holes and returning plank pieces to the bottom.
09 Mar 16:
Spent some days chatting with dory builders and small boat historians about designs for the stem. Graham McKay from Lowell's Boat Shop was very helpful in helping us determine the dimensions by scaling up from the photo. We also scoured resources in Gardner's and Chapelle's books. And lastly we just found great plans for an Irish Gandelow that is similar size, but with a curved stem. A great drawing of a sample stem was sent to us by a friend and we cut up a 4x4 to start finessing the angles where the planks and stem will come together. For ease of cutting and assembly I chose a 2 piece stem, inner and outer. The outer stem will be about 28 inches tall, as the bottom 2 inches will cover the front end of the bottom plank and it will fair into a one inch thick keel strip.
15 Mar 16:
Cutting inner and outer stem blanks out of 4x4 cypress, 25 inches each. Cut them long so we can shape the top and bottom.
Stem angle set at about 12.5 degrees using the mockup piece and a bevel.
I cut across the top to get a 7/8 inch flat.
The plank will come into the outer stem at a 90 degree angle.
Inner stem on left, outer stem on right with the cutout for a 15/16 inch thick plank.
Bending a batten to check the height of the sheer. It came to within 1/4 inch of the mark we made based on scaling the photo.
Checking to see where the top plank will hit the bow stem. It looks pretty good compared to the Drascombe Lugger sheer in the background.
Bent a batten to see where the top plank will meet the bow stem.
Mock up of how the stems, side planks, bottom plank and keel strip will tie together.
Bent a batten to see where the top plank will meet the bow stem.
Bent a batten to see where the top plank will meet the bow stem. The pencil mark was our guess based on scaling up the photo.
16 Mar 16:
Planing the bottom plank out of cypress with a DEWALT portable planer.
Starboard bottom where new plank was grafted.
Taking the curve off the port side onto the plank blank.
17 Mar 16:
Cut the bottom plank curve with....wait for it...a circular saw, set to minimum depth! I thought I was going to amaze the crew, but Skipper said she did that all the time in theater, then my son walked by and said he mentioned that to me 6 years ago.
Trimmed the edge of the old plank.
Trimmed the corners.
Trimmed the plank close to the crossmember, with the Japanese saw, then got the underside with the circular saw.
Bottom plank trimmed.
Clamped new plank piece for marking.
Cut the new plank section.
Used Pettit Marine Paint Flexpoxy to join the planks.
Skipper smoothing the Pettit Marine Paint Flexpoxy, starboard half of bottom plank is now complete!
Planks make a gentle curve up to the bow.
New starboard plank section!
18 Mar 16:
Barbashela heading to the wooden boat cottage, she'll hang out with St Jacques and Winnie for a while.
St Jacques saying howdy to Barbashela.
The boat cottage is 16x20 but when you subtract feet for studs and garage door, Barbashela has to swing sideways when we close the door. That's her planking on the deck, hiding under the Penobscot 14
Yay, we can close the door and still get to most of the boat!
19 Mar 16:
New starboard bottom plank.
Port side seat riser.
Ready to cut the scarf.
New section of seat riser cut from cypress.
Rejoined seat riser section with Pettit Marine Paint flexpoxy.
Joined seat riser scarf with Pettit Marine Paint flexpoxy.
Scarfs for planks soon.
Cut 8:1 line for sheer clamp scarf.
Cut the scarf for the sheer clamp.
Scarf was too close to frame arm and the inner section cracked, so we will move it back about 6 inches.
Got a look at the sheer profile.
Night at the boat works.
21 Mar 16:
12 planks for the broad, sheer and outer gunwale, planed them down to 15/16 inches.
Planing the 24 foot plank for the port side garboard plank.
Working our way down to 15/16 inch....we may have gone .0075 past :)
Ripped the broad planks, sheer clamps and outer gunwales.
Setting up the build table for use as a plank bending jig, started by marking a centerline.
Pre-bending the planks for the garboard, broad, sheer clamp and outer gunwale.
25 Mar 16:
Wet towels on the bent part, we wet them down a few times a day plus it has been raining. If the sun comes out and it warms up we'll throw a dark tarp over them as well. We'll check the boards next week and if they spring back too much we'll steam them.
We interrupt our irregularly scheduled program to bring you the work deck. Now that we are using the carriage house for boat restoration, we need an outdoor work area for sanding, cutting, painting and gardening.
Extended the ramp so dolly projects and larger saws can roll outside on nice days.
ADD Alert, back to the boat: Bending jig set to Barbashela's dimensions.
02 Apr 16:
ADD Alert 2: We had to arrest some Spring tide beach erosion, so I bought the Skipper 16 tons of crushed limestone and rented her a dingo.
Our osprey approves...
07 Apr 16:
Fast Forward back to deck. Skipper testing out the "ar-gola." It just happens to also work as a Sunfish size restoration deck. Time for the last plank, aka the "rum rafter!"
15 Apr 16: Found frame angles for station 2 frames.
Cut frames for station 2.
All the frames are roughed in. (Edit: The frames on the two forward stations should be forward of each crossmember.
27 Apr 16:
These 3 seats are original, we got them level today!
Places to sit now.
Port side seat riser and seats are original.
04 May 16:
Skipper taking a break, just finished putting the floorboards back in for some measurements.
Dry fit the sheer clamp and gunwale bow sections. Screwed and tied off the gunwale boards so we don't get a springy surprise.
All the floorboard notches lined up! Starboard gunwale and sheer clamp scarf is done, waiting for epoxy. Port gunwale and sheer clamp forward sections are dry fit.
First fitting of sheer clamps and gunwales. Prebending was key.
05 May 16:
Just a little bit of the aft seat missing, but the remnant did its job holding the back section of the side and transom together.
Paint stripper in action on aft seat back in February.
06 May 16:
Used the starboard side seat remnant and referenced the 1921 photo to make a copy for the port side, then filled in the middle with 3 sections. Boards will be trimmed to a gentle horseshoe shape.
First coat of paint for the seats.
07 May 16: Skipper laid down the "flood coat" of Valspar Ultra 4000 Interior/Exterior Alkyd Satin, has oil based paint qualities, offers good protection and seasoning for the cypress. The flood coat builds thickness, the next coat is a "show coat" that will show us what areas need fine tuning, then the "Finish coat" will be applied.
Cypress seat planks cut out, need to be planed to match thickness of surviving starboard side board, epoxied and trimmed to shape.
Used Pettit Flexpoxy to glue up the seat planks. Once they set up we trimmed to shape and rounded the edges. The I got epoxy in Skipper's hair.
New aft seat trimmed using 1921 photo as a reference.
Added a cleat underneath to keep the seat boards straight and connected. Epoxied as well with Pettit Flexpoxy.
First coat of alkyd enamel on the aft seat. Some titanium dioxide protection for Barbashela.
First coat of paint for the middle seat. And first layer of paint patina for the work deck!
Got at least one coat on the seats and seat risers, Valspar whipped apricot is the color. Also epoxied the scarfs on the starboard side sheer clamp and gunwale.
08 May 16:
Skipper took out Wave, I chased her in Phoenix.
The sheer clamps and gunwales are fastened to the stem!
Cut the scarfs on the sheer clamp and gunwale.
Light clamping pressure on the cypress scarf, adhered with Pettit Flexpoxy. Tightened clamp until we saw an even bead of epoxy squeeze out, then stopped. Epoxy doesn't get clamped tight like glue.
09 May 16:
Station 2 frames finished. They were beveled on the inside face as well so that the seat riser fits flat.
Washed, vacuumed, 13 new frames, a new aft seat, repaired aft bulkhead, repaired transom, scarfed new piece into port seat riser, sanded entire hull, repaired crossmembers, new bow stem, plugged a lot of square nail holes, grafted in new bottom planks, pulled in some planks, new port sheer clamp, grafted starboard sheer clamp, started 1st coat of paint. All she needs now is caulk
Scarfs came out great.
Love the curves on this boat.
We are ready to do final adjustments on the sheer clamp/gunwale.
10 May 16:
Last silicone bronze screw (whiskey or rum screw) for the gunwale and sheer clamp. Skipper did the honors with the Skill drill and a Frearson bit.
Tested out the middle rowing station for oar length.
11 May 16:
We hoped some epoxy would bond 2 riser pieces back together, but it was not to be. So we cut out the failed repair, and scarfed in a dutchman this shape.
The boat now has 2 complete seat risers!
12 May 16:
Risers roughed in.
13 May 16:
Worked on creating a healing space, atarted on a medicine wheel and garden. The wheel represents the cardinal directions, colors, and seasons. Also associated with the colors are the stages of beginning, plenty, protection and renewal and the 4 major medicines tobacco, cedar, sage and sweetgrass. The garden is planted with a lot of plants that keep pesky bugs away and provides food.
23 May 16:
Skipper did some ergonomic testing on Barbashela, checking out oar lengths and heights for rowing thwarts. She was very excited to be in the boat!
24 May 16: Skipper removing remnants of the starboard garboard plank, caulking and square nails.
Skipper looking for waterline paint colors, she found some rusty brown under the grey.
We sprung a batten parallel to the top seam of the garboard in a fair curve up to stem, then took measurements every 2 feet from the bottom of the batten down to the bottom plank. Then we made a paper pattern and transferred the measurements to planking that was on the bending jig.
Skipper cutting the starboard garboard plank to rough shape.
Pulled measurements off the aft starboard plank and copied the forward piece onto a pattern for the port side.
Cut the port garboard form one board!
We took bevel angles at each station and transferred them to the bottom of the port garboard, then rough cut with a circular saw by changing the angle as we went. Then we trimmed the board on the boat by running an oscillating tool along the bottom, parallel to the bottom blank.
Trimmed the end of the plank with a Japanese pull saw.
02 Jun 16:
The garboards are installed, time to go rowing!
06 Jun 16:
The surviving lower broad and mid broad planks on the starboard are 3 inches wide and were butted to the aft planks. We removed the broken sections and cut 2 new cypress planks to fit. They were fastened with silicone bronze screws and trimmed to fit into the stem. The plank stock was 12 to 16 feet, so we used an 8:1 scarf to make the 20 foot runs stem to stern. Scarfs were glued with Pettit flexpoxy.
For the the new piece of the top broad plank on the starboard side, we took measurements every foot between the sheer strake and mid broad plank. Then we transferred the measurements to a piece of pattern plywood and trimmed it to fit. Once it fit we transferred marks to a new cypress plank.
The top broad on the starboard side had a shattered end, so we fashioned an 8:1 scarf with an oscillating tool.
Working around the bow, took the opportunity to trim the inner stem.
For the portside top broad plank we took measurements at every station from the sheer plank to the mid broad plank. We recorded Feet-Inches-Eighths on a paint stick then made templates from pattern plywood. Trimmed the plywood to fit then cut planks.
Carpenter bee fun!
Last plank scarf.
Template for the breasthook.
Gotta fix the sculling notch, it's too fancy according to the Skipper and another subject matter expert.
15 Jun 16:
Fast forward update until I can get the blog caught up. The last plank (aka the whiskey plank) is attached and we are ready to caulk!
18 Jun 16:
Caulked the planks with 1 pound of Bristol Sussex cotton, also a little wicking in some areas. Painted the caulked seams with alkyd enamel (oil) to seal the cotton.
Cleaned out the starboard garboard seam and filed down corroded areas for dutchmen.
Posed for pictures.
Click her for Barbashela's full story.
27 Jun 16
Repaired plank fractures by injecting Pettit Flexpoxy and pulling them together with wood splints, fender washers and deck screws. Placed plastic sheeting under the splints to prevent them from sticking and to smooth the epoxy.
Made a bow seat template from pattern plywood, then cut the two pieces from cypress. FOrward edge and sides were beveled to match the gunwale.
Screwed through the gunwale with silicone bronze screws to attach the breasthook. Barbashela has a complete bow now!
We painted the floorboards and made dutchmen for the side planks. The scarfed pieces were epoxied into place and secured with splints and screws until the epoxy dried.
Russell Barnes provided us with a few detail photos of the bateau from Dec 2000. And some measurements. At that time Barbashela was on display in an alcove on the lower floor of the Davis Presidential Library at Beauvoir.
Flood coat of alkyd enamel (oil base) paint applied to the interior.
12 Jul 16:
Teaching a new generation how to caulk a bateau.
Checked out the new plank pieces aka "dutchmen."
Barbashela can hold up her own bow now.
Sanded the bottom plank repair joints, dutchmen and frames.
Worked on the starboard gunwale repair.
Laid down the flood coat of Valspar alkyd enamel, Swiss Coffee is the off white color and Whipped Apricot.
14 Jul 16:
Rolled the strongback out, then rolled Barbashela off onto the deck using broom sticks and pool noodles. Once on the deck we were able to roll her over with no problems and support her on carpenter benches.
15 Jul 16:
Rolled and tipped the flood coat of Valspar alkyd enamel Swiss Coffee.
19 Jul 16:
Sanded the bottom, took off multiple layers of paint and found a brown-red oxide color as the base color. Used 60 grit on a random orbital sander, that allowed the best control and prevented gouges.
Trimmed the gunwale repair and sanded.
Plugged old fastener holes with cypress plugs, refastened bottom with silicone bronze screws.
Cut and shaped dutchmen for the bottom planks
27 Jul 16:
Covered old nail heads and filling crevices with Pettit Flexpoxy, It does not harden as much as regular epoxy but it can be sanded and it can be used below the waterline. Sealed screw heads with Pettit EZFair.
Took bottom plank measurements.
31 Jul 16:
Applied first coat of Valspar Armor Alkyd Enamel "Mark Twain Brown."
18 Aug 16:
Cleaned out the seam in prep for painted canvas and cotton caulk.
Skipper broke out her Ginghers for this evolution! Ripped the seam strips from cotton canvas, to same width as the old seam material, pulled off the loose strings.
Saturated the canvas strips with oil based paint.
Worked the canvas strips into seam where there were gaps over 1/8 inch.
Used craft sticks wrapped in plastic to hold the canvas strips while they dry. We wanted there to be a small gap left so we can finish caulking the seams with cotton strands, paint the seam, then draw it tight with clamps and screws.
19 Aug 16:
Caulking the seams with Bristol Sussex cotton.
I drank coffee while the Skipper worked. She couldn't raise her arms for a week!
Another coat of Valspar alkyd enamel "Swiss Coffee" and second bottom coat.
09 Sep 16:
Filling in fastener holes and fairing seams with Pettit EZFair.
11 Sep 16:
Sanded the seam fairing compound smooth, now I have a few plugs to finish filling.
12 Sep 16:
Ripped, planed and scarfed keel batten sections.
Cut a skeg and attached it with TotalBoat THIXO and silicone bronze screws.
Checking for epoxy squeezeout.
13 Sep 16:
Countersunk and pilot drilled #10 silicone bronze screws through the batten.
The keel batten is 4 inches wide and 15/16th of an inch thick. We scarfed them together using a 2:1 scarf. The 4 inch wide batten matches the witness marks we found when assessing Barbashela's hull planks.
We filled the screw holes with Pettit EZFair. We chose EZFair because it should be easier to remove than full strength epoxy should we need to repair a section of the boat at a later date. Another option would have been to plug the holes with cypress plugs.
Need more paint. We considered one and two part marine epoxies, but they would not have been available in the colors that we needed. A good alternative is an oil based pain or alkyd enamel, it conditions the wood, penetrates better and provides protection in an outdoor environment. We found that Valspar had alkyd enamel and we could get it tinted in many colors at our local Lowes. The colors chosen match the original colors that we found hidden under years of dirt and multiple layers of grey and green paint. We surmised that the boat had been painted to match the Beauvoir house during later years, as it had a similar grey base with green trim scheme. Another interesting aside is that the original colors we found on Barbashela match many of the colors used on Captain Leathers' steamboat Natchez, white, butter yellow, oxide brown and ruby red....Spoiler Alert! Barbashela will have her name in red on the bow, as it appears in her 1921 photo :)
The colors we found in Valspar Ultra alkyd enamel satin were Whipped Apricot and Swiss Coffee.
The other paint we used was Valspar Armor Anti-Rust enamel, Lowes was not able to mix the Mark Twain House Brown in the Ultra base. Armor is also oil based.
15 Sep 16:
Sanded the EZFair and applied another coat of Valspar Armor Mark Twain House Brown. The Skipper instructed, no ordered me, to tape off the waterline. I did and it came out great.
With the exception of the keel strip and skeg, all of this wood is original Barbashela (1880s - 2015).
We have been using Barbashela and St. Jacques to figure out how we want to set up our Small Boat Restoration shop. Over the last few months we have added a work deck to the outside for paint and cutting, and inside we added some wire shelving. Tools have come and gone, materials as well. We are finding the good work flow areas of the shop and where a bench might go. We also like things that are on wheels. And as I get older, Skipper wants me make sure all the heavy stuff is not high on a shelf or buried under something. Today's goal was to get the temporary work table cleaned off and figure out where hand tools would go (close to the bench) and where power tools will live when not in use. As this project winds down the bench table will clear off and the rolling table will host a basic set of hand tools. Storage will change down the road as our plan is to insulate the shop and add shiplap walls and ceiling, and possibly some 1x6 decking over the plywood floor.
See if you can find Barbashela's new bow ring!
18 Sep 16:
Barbashela ready to flip, we moved the Penobscot and Sailfish out of the way and called out reinforcements.
She's got some rocker!
We are down to a few punch list items. Make rail caps, trim the forward seat, seal the bilge keel, fair the inside seams, sand, finish coat of paint, bow ring, skeg strap, install floor, fit dolly/cradle and fit to trailer. And whatever else pops up.
06 Oct 16:
Fairing the seams. We chose to use Pettit EZ Fair, it is pretty soft and sands easily.
07 Oct 16:
Laying out plank to scribe outer gunwale profile. Notched it to fit around the stem. Skipper supervised.
Used a Rockwell 4 1/2 inch left had circular saw to cut the curve. It worked great, I could see the line while I was cutting with ease, and the dry vac port sucked up most of the sawdust. Very light as well.
Planed the planks to 56/64 (7/8) inches.
Profiled the rail cap to match the gunwale with a belt sander, then random orbital sander with 80 grit, then 100 grit by hand.
08 Oct 16:
Lapped in the next section of cap rail. Dealt with the small twist with clamps.
09 Oct 16:
Worked on the mid sections of the rail cap. Put a 1 x 6 inch plank on boat to get scribe the outer curve. Remember to leave enough plank to get 3 1/4 inch flat. Removed plank and cut to shape with 4 1/2 inch circular saw set to minimum depth. Clamped plank to boat and belt sanded (80 grit) outer curve flush with outer gunwale. Removed plank and scribed 3 1/4 inch flat on plank to mark the inner curve. Cut inner curve. Cut lap. Attached plank to boat dry and belt sanded inner and outer fair curves.
Cypress pile is getting smaller.
10 Oct 16:
Finished shaping the rail caps, dry fit with silicone bronze screws, belt sanded flush with outer gunwales.
Personal Protective Equipment, plus a long sleeve shirt to keep off sawdust.
Attached the rail cap with Jamestown Distributors TotalBoat THIXO thickened epoxy and silicone bronze screws.
Clamps used for rail cap fitting.
All the restoration cypress has been cut and attached to Barbashela, a milestone! Secured for the evening.
11 Oct 16:
Filled the screw holes with Pettit EZFair.
Installed the bow ring, artfully made by Modern Blacksmith's Dave Becker.
13 Oct 16:
Stem head needed to be reshaped.
Poked the new stemhead shape onto the stemhead.
Connect the dots and grab a belt sander!
Skipper painted the newly shaped stem head.
I think the shorts should go to the Museum along with Barbashela. Captain Jack says he can tell that the boat is about done based on the layers of paint I've accumulated.
Bow ring by Modern Blacksmith looks awesome.
14 Oct 16:
Offsets and materials list.
Painted the bow wave. Used tape from the port side to transfer the bow wave outline to the starboard.
Painted with Valspar alkyd enamel "Mark Twain House Brown."
Painted the bow wave with Valspar alkyd enamel "Mark Twain House Brown." Bow eye and ring got a coat of Rustoleum High Performance Protective Enamel.
15 Oct 16:
Pat, Skipper, Murray and Fred (L-R) check out Barbashela's new 9 foot oars. Fred brought over the set of awesome oars that he crafted from lodgepole pine. He has rowed thousands of miles in his Penobscot 14 and built several award winning boats for the Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival, so Barbashela is fortunate to sport a new set of his oars. We also got a visit from Pat and Murray, that's a lot of boating and boatbuilding knowledge standing there.
Then I photo bombed...
16 Oct 16:
Cut oar lock pads from cypress, attached pads, drilled holes for oar lock sockets and chiseled out a recess for bronze manganese sockets.
17 Oct 16:
Slid Barbashela off the furniture dollies onto the O'Day Daysailer trailer, which also has kind of a flat bottom. Adjusted the bunks to catch the chine on either side, need to add a small strip under the keel and a bow stop.
Sealed the oars later with Minwax Polyshades, it offers good stain and polyurethane protection for this application, light use and indoor storage.
But then she was off to the ramp next door behind the Odyssey. With the help of the Skipper and trusty mates, Barbashela dipped into the waters of the Bay for the first time in a long time. She floated with a nice fore and aft trim, sits beautifully on the water. She rowed light as a feather, minimal effort to get started and she carried momentum well with her length and weight. Turns on a dime, she has great balance and control, both at rest and underway. Skipper also paddled from the stern seat and made 1 1/2 knots with ease. We got her up to 2 1/2 knots even with non rowers on the sticks.
Congratulations to Barbashela, she is officially a boat again!
18 Oct 16:
First coat of Minwax Polyshades Walnut Gloss, going over the top of Honey Pine which was way too light. The oar material is lodgepole pine.
Dave at Modern Blacksmith made the skeg strap out of copper and countersunk holes for #10 screws.
19 Oct 16:
Skipper getting Barbashela ready for inspection by Capn Jack and The Boss.
Rowed and paddled Barbashela, she handled great!
25 Oct 16:
All of Barbashela's cypress was hand picked by the owners of Wilson Cypress in Milton. We took her on a road trip to say thanks, check out the trailer adjustments and weigh her.
Top weight is the van, trailer and boat plus add 6 pounds for being down one gallon of gas compared to when we got the bottom weight, which was the van and empty trailer. So Barbashela weighs 526 pounds without oars.
She road like a dream, no bouncing or rattling, a good match for the loadRite sailboat trailer.
27 Oct 16:
Aft half of the boat has her Valspar Ultra "Swiss Coffee" satin finish coat. Floor boards and seats have their finish coat of "Whipped Apricot" as well.
28 Oct 16:
Reel Events Graphics in Pensacola printed out the name stickers for Barbashela.
16 Nov 16:
Cypress bunks and supports for Barbashela museum display. The 1x6 bunks will flex to fit the rocker of the boat, and the supports are spaced to fit under the seats. The outdoor grade carpet came from Lowes and is attached with galvanized staples.
17 Nov 16:
We finished the touch up paint, installed the bell and took Barbashela out for Sea Trials, Take 3. We wanted to get some good photos with our digital SLR before she headed back to Beauvoir in Biloxi.
Once again she rowed and paddled with ease. Skipper paddled first, from the stern seat. I was moveable ballast.
Then I rowed a bit.
We've had a great time bringing Barbashela back to life!
18 Nov 16:
Well today was the day. Barbashela was loaded on the trailer and we had the final few screws to attach the aft seat. Once the screws were in I put a dab of the Whipped Apricot on the screw heads and had a little chat with our girl. She is ready to roll.
She looked a lot better with her bow ring and a few cargo straps to hold her down, vs being tarped and duct taped to a stretcher when we brought her to our place. She was excited that she would get to see the sights on this trip and pointed her nose towards Beauvoir.
We headed 145 miles West to Beauvoir and made the obligatory stop at the rest area on the Mississippi State Line for the photo with the big rigs. The ladies at the Visitor Center were excited to hear her story and ran out to take a photo.Skipper posed for a shot with her girl back in Mississippi after a Florida vaction.
We pulled onto the Museum grounds and were greeted by several of the staff. They were ecstatic and near tears when they saw how beautiful Barbashela was. After a few minutes of reacquaintance and picture taking we pulled around back for the official welcome. There were about 30 people there to bring her back home, we spent a while meeting folks and answering questions. Everyone agreed that she looked great and they are ready for her to take up a starring role in the Museum. Once the party died down we moved her off the trailer to here temporary spot on the side porch.
Barbashela is tucked away nicely on the side porch of the Museum. The plan is to rent a lift to fly her up to the second story, where she will be on display. I would not be surprised if she stayed under cover outdoors or under the house, so she could slip into the bayou on occasion. She has time to contemplate such things now.
It was our privilege to walk with BARBASHELA through this time in her life, we learned many things and made new friends along the way. Our many thanks go out to everyone who helped her down the restoration path. We will swing by Biloxi from time to time to give her a check up, and to share new stories. We can't wait to be around when our younger generations get to learn a little about her and ring the bell.
06 Aug 19:
We restored the 1880s Mississippi River Skiff BARBASHELA back in 2016 for the Beauvoir Museum, she was moved inside to her new berth during the last part of July. She is the only surviving example of a skiff from that era, commonly used as tenders for steamboats. She was designed by Captain Thomas P. Leathers of the steamboat(s) Natchez, built on the deck of the Natchez and gifted to Ms. Winnie Davis of Biloxi. One of the things added for Winnie's comfort was floorboards, most skiff of that time were working skiffs and the bottom would have been open to scoop oysters, etc. She rows great, carries well and it is a treat to run her up on a beach and step right out onto the sand. Solid cypress, originally fasted with square nails. 21 feet long, 526 pounds. We used cypress from a local mill, silicone bronze, muslin, thickened epoxy and caulking cotton to get her back ship shape over a 10 month period.
We were happy to see that she is good shape and they are still using the cradle that we designed for her, it provides great support to her rockered hull and can easily roll around on furniture dollies. She also still has her bell, we hope all the kids get to ring it.
to be continued...
Barbashela Restoration Team
Skipper is the Skipper, maritime historian, galley wench and boat whisperer. She also is the test pilot and conducts back-to-sea trials on all of our restorations.
Kent has been a small craft operator for over 40 years and is an expert on Sunfish and Sailfish restorations. In 2013 he restored the 1953 wooden Sunfish Zip and has restored over 30 other sailboats, as well as authoring The Sunfish Owner’s Manual. The family also returned the 1959 Sorg Runabout Willow to the water in 2015. In 2017 the family completed construction on a new Arch Davis design Penobscot 14 named St. Jacques. Other duties include trailer wrangler, moveable ballast and landing party.
Friends of Barbashela:
Adrienne Nelson Heuer and Jack Heuer
Al and Carolyn Smith
Generous Technical Assistance and References Provided By:
Building Supply Center Pensacola
Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway
Lowell's Boat Shop Graham McKay
Mystic Seaport Museum
Small Boat Restoration LLC
University of West Florida Maritime Archaeology
Small Boat Worldcat Library: https://www.worldcat.org/profiles/kentblair/lists/3077123
Barnes, Russell. 2001. The Davis Skiff, Housed at the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library at Beauvoir: A Survey Report on the Skiff, its History, Design, Construction and Condition. Biloxi, MS.
Chapelle, Howard Irving. 1951. American small sailing craft, their design, development, and construction. New York: Norton.
Chapelle, Howard I. 1941. Boatbuilding: a complete handbook of wooden boat construction. New York: Norton and Company.
Gardner, John. 1977. Building classic small craft. Camden, Me: International Marine Pub. Co.
Gardner, John, and Samuel F. Manning. 1978. The dory book.
Jones, Mrs. Wilbur Moore. 1921. Historic Beauvoir: souvenir booklet of Beauvoir-on-the-Gulf, Harrison County, Mississippi. Hattiesburg, MS: Hattiesburg American Commercial Printing Dept.
Barbashela would like to thank the following people for their generous donations:
Would you like a color copy of the restoration report? The 176 page report is available for purchase for $39.95 USD through Amazon! Click here to purchase.
Kent and Audrey
PS Contact us if you need your historic small boat restored :)