Spring Creations

Part IV

Setting The Keel

While the rabbits were involved with their annual flower basket effort, Bartholomew was beginning his own ambitious project, the HMS Ballymore. Before the boat could be built, it had to be designed. His ship book contained some detailed drawings of an Irish Hooker, which were a great help. He decided that some features of the original boat were unnecessary for Ballymore. For example there was no need for sleeping quarters or a kitchen below the deck. The boat was not going to be a hotel or floating restaurant. Instead, the space could be used for cargo or storage as needed. By eliminating these and other unneeded features, it would be much easier to build.

He spent an evening copying and modifying sketches of the boat from the book. It would be designed to be sailed by a crew of two. When there was no wind, it would be small enough to tow.

The following morning, he sent messages to Morris and Burton asking if they could come to a meeting at 7 bongs that evening to discuss the design. As I have mentioned, Morris and Burton were the most experienced woodworkers in Ballymore. They arrived just after dinner. After considering Bartholomew’s initial designs, they had a number of suggestions. The three animals worked together that night and made good progress. It still took four more meetings before the design was finished and ready to build.

First, a suitable construction location was needed. Ideally, the boat should be built on land and then launched into the pond, but that would not be easy to do. The animals had no way, they could think of, to move the completed boat over land and into the pond. It simply would be too heavy.

Bartholomew suggested that the boat be built above the water and then lowered into the pond. If they could find a very narrow cove, they could build a dock across it. Then, they could build the boat on the dock. When completed, it would be slid off of the dock into the pond. Would it work? We will see.

Just such a small cove was located on the north side of the pond not far from Morris Muskrat’s cottage. It was only eight feet wide and about twenty feet in length.

The next step was to obtain the wood for the dock and boat. Bartholomew calculated that they needed wood from seven medium sized trees, four for the boat and three for the dock. No living trees were to be cut. Bartholomew asked Stoddard Swan to fly around the pond and see if he could find any dead trees near the shoreline. His search was successful. Within a day he found a number good possibilities and some of them were white oaks. White oak was the best wood for boat building. Bartholomew found that important fact in his ship book.

Morris and Burton visited the trees Stoddard had found and selected the best seven white oaks. Over the next week, the beavers cut down the trees. Bartholomew measured and marked them. With the help of the ducks, logs were cut and towed to the cove.

Meanwhile, Bartholomew and the squirrels built a simple hoist system over the cove. A stout rope with a sliding hook was suspended between two trees. Using pulleys and a handle, the hook could be raised and lowered. Now, they were able to move logs and parts of the boat around.

With the hoist in place and the wood delivered, they could construct the dock. Morris and the beavers brought their saws and other tools to the cove. They sawed thirty boards for the dock. Those pieces were attached to two side rails on either side of the cove. It took only three days to complete the dock, and it was just six inches above the water as planned.

Morris stood on the new dock, looked out over the pond and thought about the boat: A few days ago there was nothing here, and now I’m standing on a dock. In a few weeks there’ll be a boat sitting in the water. One of us could never do this alone. Working together, however, is there any limit to what we can do, he wondered.

Over the next few weeks, the parts for the hull and deck were cut and assembled on the dock. Bartholomew did the measuring. He marked and checked each piece to ensure it was correct. Then, he checked again. The main sections included the hull frame, the hull cladding, the rudder, and the deck. The white oak trees were being transformed into a boat.

When the hull sections were complete, the many joints needed to be sealed against water. Morris made a glue from pine sap, sawdust, and a secret ingredient. The glue was forced into every joint from the inside of the boat until it oozed to the outside. After it dried, the surfaces were sanded smooth. Hopefully, they now had a nice water-tight vessel.

Next they painted the boat inside and out in accordance with the colours shown in the book. The hull was made a shiny black. The deck and mast were a light shade of mahogany. Using gold paint, Bartholomew lettered its name on the stern — HMS Ballymore. Even though it wasn’t finished, the boat was already impressive and beautiful.

The animals were very happy with what they had accomplished so far. However, much remained to be done before the boat’s presentation on Midsummer’s Eve.