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Perry gets its mast(s)

Sep 26, 2014

Onne Van Der Wal

No sailing vessel is going very far without a mainmast (especially a sloop). On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the sail training vessel Oliver Hazard Perry received its mainmast when the 130-foot tall unit was stepped at the Hinckley Company in Portsmouth, R.I. A dockside ceremony was held to celebrate the mast stepping recognize the progress toward completion of Oliver Hazard Perry, which is Rhode Island's official Sailing Education vessel. 

The ship's foremast had been stepped earlier in the month of September and the mizzen mast was stepped following the ceremony. 

From the press release: The ships three masts are composed of three elements: lower tubes made of steel and the upper two sections (called the topmast and t'gallant) made of Douglas fir, which came from a private tree farm in Rainier, Oregon and was turned in Washington State on the largest spar lathe in North America. Collectively, Perry's 19 wooden spars – including the mizzen, mainmast and royals for each; fore top mast and gallant; mizzen gaff; boom; and jib boom – weigh almost 36 tons and total 25,182 board feet – enough to build a house of more than 3,700 square feet.

After remarks by Bart Dunbar, Chairman, OHPRI, and Donald Christ, Esq., President, Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust (a major contributor for which the rig will be dedicated when complete), a 1936 Rhode Island Tercentenary Half Dollar, issued to commemorate the 1636 founding of Providence, R.I. and donated by OHPRI Board Member Jim Pickering, was placed in Perry¯s mast step. Samuel Appleton Treherne-Thomas placed the coin with help from Ben Grenier; both are family descendants of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the American hero (and Rhode Island native) in the Battle of Lake Erie for which the ship is named.

"There is a long and rich history of placing coins beneath masts to address an assortment of superstitions; today we place our coins to bring good luck and to memorialize a significant moment in the process of our ship's creation," said Captain Richard Bailey.

While one worker operated the crane, several more helped to position the mast vertically before it was lowered into place.  When the mast was in place, the firing of Perry's cannon signaled that all was well with the progress of this project:  the first full-rigged ocean-going ship to be built in the United States in the last 110 years.

Watch a video of the mast stepping effort here. 

 

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