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Author Topic: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'  (Read 6007 times)

Nemo

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Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« on: August 04, 2016, 11:18:17 AM »

I have recently acquired a 36" LOA  Grand Banks 'knockabout' schooner model based on the Helen B. Thomas, and I am currently researching the history of this type of vessel. I am unable to find any kit manufacturer so I assume it is a scratch-built model. It is in need of some slight repair and new sails which I will attempt to make.
I wondered if any member may recognise this vessel from their club etc and provide me with some of its former history, builder etc? She is all wood plank on frame and is in excellent condition apart from a few minor defects.

Bob.

   
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Netleyned

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2016, 12:00:11 PM »

Very nice Nemo
A lot of work gone into it.
The brass mast and boom/gaff fittings
are really impressive.


Ned
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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2016, 01:15:03 PM »

Yes, Ned it is a well made model, and is almost 'museum' quality. It has a rudder servo and just needs a sail-winch, so it has presumably been used on the water. Similar to the 'Bluenose' but without the bowsprit.
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tigertiger

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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2016, 01:33:09 PM »

Thank you tigertiger. I have seen all these books in my findings so far. It seems that different owners/skippers would alter the amount of sails to their particular fancy, therefore, the rig set-up will be down to what looks right to me.   :-))
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tigertiger

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2016, 10:50:18 AM »

Ah, rigs. Yep, rigs were often changing with the times. As I am sure you know, the J class went from gaff rig to Bermuda rig. There would have been advances in technology that the commercial boat owners also took advantage of. Actual sail plans would also change depending on the prevailing weather. I am not sure if fishing schooners carried storm sails, but they would certainly have top sails, gaff topsails, fisherman, jibs, and flying jibs hoisted up and down at different times.
I think I read somewhere, that as today, skippers would race back into port to get their catches off loaded asap and back out to sea. This was one of the reasons schooners were so popular on the Grand Banks, speed.


If you are going to change this into a working model, another consideration is how many sails you can rig and operate effectively. Mainmast staysails, jibs, flying jibs, and Genoas can be more tricky. If it is a static model, as you said, can pretty much do as you feel fit. There are plenty of pictures of the Helen B Thomas on line to guide your choice.
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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2016, 08:19:57 PM »

TT. I should think it will not be too difficult to rig and I have made sails in the past quite successfully - including those for my old 24 footer! I am running an Atlantis at the moment with controls to 4 sails, so I am used to the pitfalls and 'Grannys knitting' that can occur so I am looking forward to this small challenge. You are correct about the race to and from the fishing grounds and the designer of the Helen B. Thomas was one of the best. He was Thomas F. McManus, a naval architect in Boston, who adapted an idea from sailing yachts to the fishing schooners of New England. He eliminated the bowsprit, the spar projecting forward from the schooner’s bow, in an attempt to make the vessel safer for the fishermen working in treacherous conditions far offshore. In McManus’s new design, fishermen would not have to clamber out on the bowsprit (named by sailors as 'The Widowmaker') to tend the jib, a dangerous task especially in bad weather that, in McManus’s view, resulted too often in injury or death. This resulted in the design being taken up by Captain William Thomas of Portland, Maine, who decided to try the design and contracted with the Oxner & Story yard in Essex, Mass., to build the schooner. The Helen B. Thomas was launched in 1902 and measured 106’-7” overall, with a beam (width) of 21’-6” and 13’ deep. The vessel became a successful fishing schooner. While no other schooners were built to this exact design, many were built without the bowsprit, a schooner design that became known as the “knockabout.”. These notes are from the Smithsonian Museum.
I can't help wondering if I may have the only working model of the ship this side of the pond - unless any schooner-lovers can correct me?
Bob.
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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2016, 10:14:57 PM »

I may now have her working rig as this photo shows as she passes Castle Island at the entrance to Boston Mass. Date unknown.
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tigertiger

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2016, 01:46:17 PM »

That look like a simple enough rig. You could run that off of one sail arm servo.
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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2016, 06:36:16 PM »

Yes, that is my plan. Topsails may require some head-scratching!  :-))
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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2016, 07:17:45 PM »

Nice painting of Helen B. Thomas. Those guys must have been really hard men!
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TomHugill

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2016, 11:25:08 PM »

My dads 36" grand bank schooner sails beautifully without a sail winch so if your struggling to fit one I wouldn't worry!





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tigertiger

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2016, 08:59:27 AM »

... Those guys must have been really hard men!


Piecing bits together from memory.
If you look under the main boom in the picture, you can see the dorys that they used for fishing.  They would drop a guy off in a dory, with a long line and rations. The main boat would sail off and drop off the next fisherman in the same way. These guys in the dorys would suffer all weathers, usually for about 3 day, until the main boat came back to collect them and their catches. The catches would sit in the dory until loaded into the hold of the main boat. The dorys would then be stacked, and they would go to find the next guy. All before sailing home as quickly as possible.
Bearing in mind, no gps only basic navigation, rolling seas making it hard to see small boats, and storms. I wonder how many dorys never got picked up again.
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tigertiger

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2016, 09:06:08 AM »

Regards topsail.
At least she does not appear to have carried a square topsail, as most American schooners used to .
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TomHugill

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2016, 09:19:37 AM »

Regards topsail.
At least she does not appear to have carried a square topsail, as most American schooners used to .

Grand bank fishing schooners didn't tend to
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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2016, 12:11:57 PM »


Piecing bits together from memory.
If you look under the main boom in the picture, you can see the dorys that they used for fishing.  They would drop a guy off in a dory, with a long line and rations. The main boat would sail off and drop off the next fisherman in the same way. These guys in the dorys would suffer all weathers, usually for about 3 day, until the main boat came back to collect them and their catches. The catches would sit in the dory until loaded into the hold of the main boat. The dorys would then be stacked, and they would go to find the next guy. All before sailing home as quickly as possible.
Bearing in mind, no gps only basic navigation, rolling seas making it hard to see small boats, and storms. I wonder how many dorys never got picked up again.

I remembered a story from something I read years ago and now have found it: From Wiki........

Howard Blackburn first rose to fame in 1883. While he was fishing on the schooner Grace L. Fears, a sudden winter storm caught him and a dorymate unprepared while they were in their banks dory, leaving them separated from the schooner. Blackburn began to row for shore, despite the loss of his mittens; he knew his hands would freeze, so he kept them in the hooked position that would allow him to row. He tried to save one hand with a sock and thus worsened his condition by freezing his toes and yet not being able to save his fingers. The crewmate gave up and lay down in the dory and died on the second day. Blackburn carried the body to shore for a proper grave.

After five days with virtually no food, water, or sleep, he made it to shore in Newfoundland. Blackburn's hands were treated for frostbite, but could not be saved; he lost all of his fingers, and many of his toes, and both thumbs to the first joint.

Blackburn returned to Gloucester a hero, and with the help of the town, managed to establish a successful business.


Full amazing story here - http://www.downtosea.com/1876-1900/blckbrn.htm
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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2016, 12:29:03 PM »

Grand bank fishing schooners didn't tend to

Tom, your Dad's schooner is a beauty and a credit to him. Did he make the sails ? I would like to make my own as another challenge.
Bob.

BTW. My Atlantis will now go on sale as I can't keep both - no space.
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TomHugill

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2016, 01:22:50 PM »

Thanks! I'll pass it on. Yeah he made the sails him self. Apparently there were lots of issues with material stretching but I guess that's a problem with all seemstrees activities!
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roycv

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #18 on: August 11, 2016, 06:32:05 PM »

Hi, strongly reccommend you find the old film Captains Courageous with Spencer Tracey in it.  There are more genuine fishing schooners in that than you can shake a stick at.  There is also a model one but that is another thread!

There is a Disney re-make, do not bother with it.

It is a good story and very well filmed and sympathetic to the fishing schooners with lots of film on the fishing from the doreys as well.
Do not miss it!
regards Roy
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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2016, 10:44:42 PM »

Roy, I saw 'Captains Courageous' when I was a boy, and I remember the rich kid being saved from the sea by Spencer Tracey, who taught him about life outside a rich mans home. Great film. :-))
...............................

Further to the above, I have discovered that this smart model schooner was built as a static model and has been scratch- built to a high standard by an American gentleman.  Some parts fitted show an attempt was made at radio-control, but as no ballast has been fitted, she has never seen water.  I plan to get her afloat and fit her with R/C.
She is built completely of wood and the keel is merely varnished. My work will also entail skinning the keel to ensure water tightness, ballasting the keel, and making a mainsail, foresail, staysail and jib. The schooner was not designed for topsails, although she could be adapted for their use. She is known as a 'knockabout, bald-headed schooner' as the fishermen would say as she has no bow-sprit and no topsails fitted. Nevertheless she was reportedly one of the fastest ships in the Gloucester fleet.

Model sail-making is new for me so I started making templates today and from them, I have cut the mainsail and foresail outlines, ready for sewing a 6mm edge when I find some terylene thread. They look OK, so I suppose I am doing something right!

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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2016, 09:06:01 PM »

HBT is coming along nicely. I have sheathed the hull with a light g/fibre skin and sprayed several coats so hopefully it will not leak. Two hours well weighted down in the tank and not a drop got in. I had intended to epoxy coat the interior to keep the wet stuff out, but access to all areas was poor so I decided on the exterior option, and hope this will suffice.
I ballasted the keel with exterior lead strips amounting to a starting weight of 480 gms which sounds a bit light, but she is a light model and took a fair amount of 'lean' in the test-tank. More can be added later if required.
I fitted a new steering servo and new Hi-Tec sail-arm servo for the 4 sails. Today I finished rigging the new mainsail and foresail - see it in and out of the water.
Now for the staysail and jib, then a test sail.  :-))   

BOB.
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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #21 on: August 30, 2016, 09:09:07 PM »

At last she is complete and sails quite well - for a display model! I may have to add a bit more lead up front as she tended to get caught 'in irons' at todays first test sail at Eastbourne,  but winds were light so it may be that I could not get enough 'way' on to get through the tack, but I am well pleased with the results and she is a pretty wee ship. Just awaiting my 'crew', if Preissers can find them for me!
Bob.  :-))
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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #22 on: September 07, 2016, 10:03:53 AM »

Nemo, Have you had much experience sailing scale sail with no motor? Although very relaxing most of the time panic is all to frequent. My experience, pull the sails in to build speed just before turning through the wind. If you get caught in irons, flip the rudder one way quickly slowly back to the other side, repeat & she should come around. Sorry if you already know this.
Very nice conversion.   
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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #23 on: September 07, 2016, 11:01:01 AM »

Hi Nemo,
Really nice model, one of our club members has a similar model and they sail it without a winch, just the rudder servo and it really sails well.

Destroyer42
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Nemo

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Re: Schooner 'Helen B. Thomas'
« Reply #24 on: September 07, 2016, 10:55:04 PM »

Thanks both. Yes, I have sailed with just rudder under servo. It is satisfying when you get the rig and sail setting right for the conditions on the day. In fact the schooner has control of main and foresails only, the jib and staysail are self-tacking. I have also made a new and bigger mainsail and it sails much better.
I sail on a lake where the prevailing wind causes swirls due to the surrounding land sweeping down to the water - almost like sailing in a saucer! There is a wooded island to leeward of the prevailing wind and if I get it right, the ship sails on a reach until it reaches the wind shadow of the island and slows down, bears away and gybes round and off she goes on the other tack, towards a wooded bay where she does the same manoeuvre and turns again, with me doing very little to rudder control, then back to the island and away she tacks again! Interesting, but boring after a while! ok2
I'm off to the Broads next week to try out this nice ' big model' 26ft gunter sloop for size!  :-))
   
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