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Cranes, Telehandler Get Into ’Spirit’ of Tall Ship Construction

Wed August 03, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Jeff Cronin

All British poet John Masefield asked for in “Sea Fever” was “a tall ship and a star to steer her by.”

But, in order to fulfill that request — at least the ship part — Master Shipwright Mark Bayne has sought the assistance of the heavy equipment industry.

Bayne, and a crew from Sea Island Boatworks resumed work on the Spirit of South Carolina in Charleston in March after a 17-month lull in the project caused by a lack of funding.

Ironically enough, a Lull telehandler was among the first equipment back at the job site once work resumed.

The $4 million pilot schooner’s design is reminiscent of the Frances Elizabeth, a vessel built in Charleston in 1879 that called the harbor home for 25 years. The plans for the new ship were derived from its inspiration’s plans found amidst the shelves of the Smithsonian.

Bayne said he needed the help of a Lull because of the size of this project. The work it’s performing would normally be completed with a forklift for smaller vessels.

The ship’s deck will measure 90 ft. and its overall length will be 138 ft.

The Lull is the workhorse of the project.

“We have it out there all the time,” Bayne said.

The machine lifts some of the lighter components of the ship into place for crew members to attach to its skeleton.

When it comes to the heavier pieces of the puzzle, though, Bayne and his crew rely on cranes from Parker Rigging Company Inc. in North Charleston. He calls the cranes in every few days to set three of the ship’s frames at a time. Each of the 41 frames weighs a couple of thousand pounds each.

Tim Parker, president of Parker Rigging Company, has brought in both a 14.5 ton Terex boom truck and a 21 ton National boom truck.

These were the right ones for the job because, “the loads weren’t particularly heavy.”

In addition, the equipment had to maneuver through downtown Charleston to get to the site, which can be congested with building material, not leaving enough room for larger cranes.

Parker also said the smaller units fit better into the project’s budget.

Bayne said the access to modern equipment makes the job a little easier than the builders of the Frances Elizabeth had it, but “we could still do it that way if we were forced to.”

Instead of building the heavy frames outside of the ship’s skeleton, crews would have built them in place.

Still, the construction of the wooden ship has hints of the old fashioned way of doing things, just with the convenience of modern tools.

The crew consists of six full-timers, along with a core of seven volunteers.

“They’re local people who aren’t expert ship builders but they don’t mind hard work,” Bayne said.

There have not been any extraordinary challenges during the Spirit’s construction, aside from fundraising, which is led by the South Carolina Maritime Heritage Foundation, the owner of the ship and surrounding shipyard.

The seaworthy vessel, which will be able to carry 29 overnight passengers and a crew, won’t simply become an homage to times gone by.

“The Spirit of South Carolina will be a great asset to the area and to the state of South Carolina,” said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. “Providing unique educational experiences to thousands of students, this tall ship will be a wonderful representation of the strong maritime history of this area and the state.”

Once complete, the Sprit will act as a classroom for students from around the region. They will be able to experience navigation, trimming sails and working as a team.

For more information, visit CEG

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