The Nautilus Swell is a grand dame tugboat. At 101 years young she is still going strong, but requires constant care and attention to keep her ship shape. The art of wooden boat construction and maintenance is an ancient marine tradition, but anyone who has owned or worked on a wooden boat knows just how high maintenance these romances can be. This year we are replacing a few planks and restoring some caulking in her formidable hull. The art of caulking is an ancient occupation with the word coming into common use during the 14th century. Many beautiful but hardy, specialized tools are used during this process and it is pretty impressive to watch those who know what they are doing at work.
The Swell is a carvel-planked fir vessel so we will be driving cotton fibers then oakum deep into the gaps between the ship’s planks. Because of the fir planks horsing will not be necessary. The materials must be driven deep into the gaps, evenly and gently so as to not damage the wood, allow for the wood to flex and move, yet firmly enough to stick fast without going right through the seam. The caulking must be driven in to fill the seam about half its depth where it will then be filled with red lead putty. Properly done and maintained the boat will remain water tight and sound for many years of diving adventures!