The Shipyard has begun work on replacing L.A. Dunton’s rig in anticipation of re-stepping her lower masts next spring.
The Gloucester fishing schooner, 123 feet, 3 inches over all, is one of the few remaining vessels of her type in the country. Sailing schooners like the Dunton fished the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and Georges Bank outside of Cape Cod and were some of the fastest and ablest fishing vessels in the world. Dunton was designed by Thomas McManus and built in 1921 by the Arthur D. Story yard in Essex, MA. A part of the Museum since 1963, she was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994.
Dunton has been displayed without her topmasts for the last several years due to some weakness in her main mast top. Last fall, in anticipation of her scheduled haul out, Shipyard staff removed her lower masts to discover her main top was so deteriorated that they could not re-step her masts without replacing her main all together. Furthermore, the Samson post into which her bowsprit is mortised was also found to be rotten; fortunately deterioration had not spread to the bowsprit itself. The Samson post will also need replacement before her rig can go back in. After reviewing various partial rig scenarios the Shipyard reluctantly decided, to the disappointment of many, to exhibit her without a rig until resources were available to correct these deficiencies.
The new main will be somewhat different from the one that was removed. It will be a little longer with slightly different mast head detail. This is the result of research done in the mid-1980s. At that time extensive notes accumulated by Edward S. Bosley, researcher and correspondent of Howard I. Chappelle, during last days of fishing schooners, became available through the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, in Essex, MA. This research gave details unavailable to the Museum in earlier Dunton rig restorations. Subsequently, new lower masts were ordered to these new specifications. The masts were stored, until last week, under the lean-to shelter alongside the Small Boat Exhibit. The main is now alongside the bulkhead near the Sanger Visitors Reception Center waiting for work to begin. It’s a beautiful piece of Douglas fir 90-feet long and 19 inches in diameter.
Dunton is also in need of new topmasts. Fabrication and re-rigging her topmasts will follow next year as time and resources are available.
This work is being made possible through the generous support of several donors with a special interest in the L.A. Dunton .
It’s been more than 30 years since L.A. Dunton has received any major work, and before long she will need a major restoration on the level of the Museum’s recent Charles W. Morgan project. In the meantime, the Shipyard will continue to monitor her condition and improve her according to priorities as they arise.