This plank is approximately 3″ thick, 7″ wide and about 31′ long. It weighs about 290 pounds. It is one of about 50 planks the ship yard has shaped, fit and fastened onto the hull of Mayflower II. This particular plank is going to be steamed to make it pliable enough to bend around the curve of the hull in the bow.
The steam box is a series of twelve foot long steel tubes that can be bolted together to make a box long enough to accommodate the various lengths of planking. Steam is produced by the steam generator, (shown next to the steam box) which is a diesel fired boiler. the piece of equipment in the back of the shot is a water circulator. Apparently it was designed and built to keep water cooled air conditions running while big yachts are in the shipyard. The crew is using it here to collect the water that has condensed at the end of the steam box, cool it and direct it back into the steam generator.
I may have mentioned this before in this blog but each plank must steam for three hours before they will bend. Generally a piece of oak requires an hour of steaming for each inch of thickness of planking. These planks are three inches thick. Luckily shipwrights don’t have to be super good at math to steam a plank.
The crew works quickly to get the plank out of the steam box and into position or at least as quickly as you can move carrying three hundred pounds of hot oak. The plank will cool off after about ten minutes so it needs to be bent nearly into its final shape in a timely fashion.
The closer to the final shape the crew can get the plank into the better. The plank has been bent around the hull and driven up next to the plank above it. They will let it cool for a few hours so that the plank will retain its shape before removing it from the hull for final fitting and priming. Also the plank swells a bit in the steam box so it must be allowed to shrink back down to its original width before the final fit and fastening.
The spiling process, used to determine the shape of the new plank does not always pick up every bump and hollow of the old plank against which the new one must fit. There is usually some fine tuning of the fit to get the new plank to mate smoothly against the old one without any voids or gaps in the seam.
After lugging these heavy and hot planks around all day I bet the yard crew could use a little yoga to work out the kinks . (But maybe not planking, which I hear requires a great deal of torso strength.)