BROWNSVILLE — “Hip-hip-huzzah! Hip-hip-huzzah! Hip-hip-huzzah!” More than 40 people belted out the traditional maritime cheer when volunteers laid the “whiskey plank” on the tall ship Fiddler’s Dream on June 10 at Brownsville Marina.
The “whiskey plank” is so called because it is the very last piece of deck planking to be installed on a tall ship — and tradition calls for everyone who worked on the project to celebrate the completion of the deck with a glass or more of whiskey.
It was a red letter day for the volunteers, members and officers of the nonprofit Kitsap Maritime Heritage Foundation, which owns the schooner. When the ship was donated to the foundation several years ago, it had to be almost totally stripped down and rebuilt after years of neglect.
The rotted masts were pulled and discarded. The deck and the interior of the ship had to be demolished because of rot. The steel hull had to be scanned for thin spots and the old lead ballast removed. Then, the rebuilding began.
The hull was re-welded where necessary, then painted inside and out. New ballast was laid in the keel. To keep out the elements while work was done on the deck, a plastic canopy was built; the ship looked like a seagoing covered wagon. Support beams were fashioned out of incredibly heavy purple heartwood. Two layers of marine plywood panels were epoxied together to form a waterproof under-deck. Then, after more than a year-and-a-half since construction began, work finally began on the finished deck. Cutting each plank to the proper width and shape to fit the curved hull took more months.
So, when master shipwright Scott “Scotty” Kimmitt drove the last screws into the whiskey plank, the assembled throng had a great deal to cheer for. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.
With the deck and cabin structure complete, work will commence on completing the below-decks areas, installing drinking water, waste water and fuel tanks, steering gear and the sailing ship’s other means of propulsion, the diesel engine.
When that landmark is reached, the “covered wagon” roof can come off and the new masts can be installed, along with new yards, sails and rigging. Then, the task will be complete and Fiddler’s Dream can start on her new career as Kitsap County’s floating classroom where, according to www.kitsapmaritime.com, individuals of all ages can acquire STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills “in an applied approach with hands-on, problem-solving learning. Additional learning opportunities include marine environmental habitat and preservation.”
When that day comes, they’ll celebrate with champagne.
To learn more about the Fiddler’s Dream project and how you can help, go to www.kitsapmaritime.com.