posted by MALCOLM PALMER alias [email protected] on Thursday 14th of January 2021 07:46:28 PM
Photograph above; Tea-Clipper Cutty Sark, Greenwich. Showing the underwater viewing galleries built around the World Class Sailing Ship which surely must be the Country's or World's finest viewing gallery of a capital preserved ship. Photograph Copyright: Digital Expression UK (2021) OVERVIEW Cutty Sark is a British clipper ship. Built on the River Leven, Dumbarton, Scotland in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development, which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion. The opening of the Suez Canal (also in 1869) meant that steamships now enjoyed a much shorter route to China, so Cutty Sark spent only a few years on the tea trade before turning to the trade in wool from Australia, where she held the record time to Britain for ten years. Improvements in steam technology meant that gradually steamships also came to dominate the longer sailing route to Australia, and the ship was sold to the Portuguese company Ferreira and Co. in 1895 and renamed Ferreira. She continued as a cargo ship until purchased in 1922 by retired sea captain Wilfred Dowman, who used her as a training ship operating from Falmouth, Cornwall. After his death, Cutty Sark was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College, Greenhithe in 1938 where she became an auxiliary cadet training ship alongside HMS Worcester. By 1954, she had ceased to be useful as a cadet ship and was transferred to permanent dry dock at Greenwich, London, for public display. Cutty Sark is listed by National Historic Ships as part of the National Historic Fleet (the nautical equivalent of a Grade 1 Listed Building). She is one of only three remaining original composite construction (wooden hull on an iron frame) clipper ships from the nineteenth century in part or whole, the others being the City of Adelaide, which arrived in Port Adelaide, South Australia on 3 February 2014 for preservation, and the beached skeleton of Ambassador of 1869 near Punta Arenas, Chile. The ship has been damaged by fire twice in recent years, first on 21 May 2007 while undergoing conservation. She was restored and was reopened to the public on 25 April 2012. On 19 October 2014 she was damaged in a smaller fire. Cutty Sark whisky derives its name from the ship. An image of the clipper appears on the label, and the maker formerly sponsored the Cutty Sark Tall Ships' Race. The ship also inspired the name of the Saunders Roe Cutty Sark flying boat. CONSTRUCTION Cutty Sark was ordered by shipping magnate John Willis, who operated a shipping company founded by his father. The company had a fleet of clippers and regularly took part in the tea trade from China to Britain. Speed was a clear advantage to a merchant ship, but it also created prestige for the owners: the 'tea race' was widely reported in contemporary newspapers and had become something of a national sporting event, with money being gambled against a winning ship. In earlier years, Willis had commanded his father's ships at a time when American designed ships were the fastest in the tea trade, and then had owned British designed ships, which were amongst the best available in the world but had never won the tea race. In 1868 the brand new Aberdeen built clipper Thermopylae set a record time of 61 days port to port on her maiden voyage from London to Melbourne and it was this design that Willis set out to better. It is uncertain how the hull shape for Cutty Sark was chosen. Willis chose Hercules Linton to design and build the ship but Willis already possessed another ship, The Tweed, which he considered to have exceptional performance. The Tweed (originally Punjaub) was a frigate designed by Oliver Lang based on the lines of an old French frigate, built in Bombay for the East India Company as a combination sail/paddle steamer. She and a sister ship were purchased by Willis, who promptly sold the second ship plus engines from The Tweed for more than he paid for both. The Tweed was then lengthened and operated as a fast sailing vessel, but was considered too big for the tea runs. Willis also commissioned two all-iron clippers with designs based upon The Tweed, Hallowe'en and Blackadder. Linton was taken to view The Tweed in dry dock. Willis considered that The Tweed's bow shape was responsible for its notable performance, and this form seems to have been adopted for Cutty Sark. Linton, however, felt that the stern was too barrel shaped and so gave Cutty Sark a squarer stern with less tumblehome. The broader stern increased the buoyancy of the ship's stern, making it lift more in heavy seas so it was less likely that waves would break over the stern, and over the helmsman at the wheel. The square bilge was carried forward through the centre of the ship. Cutty Sark was given masts that followed the design of The Tweed, with similar good rake and the foremast on both placed further aft than usual. A contract for Cutty Sark's construction was signed on 1 February 1869 with the firm of Scott & Linton, which had only been formed in May 1868. Their shipyard was at Dumbarton on the River Leven on a site previously occupied by shipbuilders William Denny & Brothers. The contract required the ship to be completed within six months at a contracted price of £17 per ton and maximum weight of 950 tons. This was a highly competitive price for an experimental, state-of-the-art vessel, and for a customer requiring the highest standards. Payment would be made in seven instalments as the ship progressed, but with a penalty of £5 for every day the ship was late. The ship was to be built to Lloyd's A1 standard and her construction was supervised on behalf of Willis by Captain George Moodie, who would command her when completed. Construction delays occurred when the Lloyd's inspectors required additional strengthening in the ship. Work on the ship was suspended when Scott and Linton ran out of money to continue. Rather than simply liquidate the company, an arrangement was made for Denny's to take over the contract and complete the ship, which was finally launched on 22 November 1869 by Captain Moodie's wife. The ship was moved to Denny's yard to have her masts fitted, and then on 20 December towed downriver to Greenock to have her running rigging installed. In the event, completing the ship meant the company's creditors were owed even more money than when work had first been halted. Cutty Sark's length was 212 feet 5 inches (64.74 m), with a draft of 21 feet (6.40 m) and a deadweight of 921 tons.Broadly, the parts of the ship visible above the waterline were constructed from East India teak, while American rock elm was used for the ship's bottom. The stem (15 in × 15 in (38 cm × 38 cm)) and sternpost (16.5 in × 15 in (42 cm × 38 cm)) were of teak while the rudder was of English oak. The keel was replaced in the 1920s with one constructed from 15 in (38 cm) pitch pine. The deck was made of 3.5 in (8.9 cm) thick teak while the 'tween deck was 3 in (7.6 cm) yellow pine. The keel (16.5 in × 15 in (42 cm × 38 cm)) had on either side a garboard strake (11 in × 12 in (28 cm × 30 cm)) and then 6 in (15 cm) planking decreasing to 4.75 in (12.1 cm) at 1/5 the depth of the hold. Teak planking began at approximately the level of the bilge stringer. The hull was covered by Muntz metal sheeting up to the 18 ft (5.5 m) depth mark, and all the external timbers were secured by Muntz metal bolts to the internal iron frame. The wrought-iron frame was an innovation in shipbuilding. It consisted of frames (vertical), beams (horizontal) and cross bracing (diagonal members). The diagonally-braced iron frame made for a strong, rigid ship; diagonal members prevent racking (shearing, where frame rectangles become parallelograms). Less working and leaking of the hull meant less crew time spent pumping, allowing more time to be spent on changes of sail. The wrought-iron-framed hull also took up less cargo space than an all-wood hull would have done. The Muntz metal sheeting reduced fouling of Cutty Sark's hull; with a cleaner hull, she could sail faster.
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- Published 01.30.23
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