Schooner Yacht AMERICA
Scratch Built Ship Model           Scale 3/8" = 1'         39.5"L x 9"H x 12"W              $75,000

Click on the thumbnails above for more detailed views of AMERICA

This vessel has attained almost mythic status in the history of yachting. My purpose in creating this model was to demonstrate the construction and interior layout of the hull, to better understand how she was built and used. This gives people a better understanding of one of the most beautiful and significant yachts in our history. There are a number of interesting aspects of her design and building which are not generally known, and which are displayed here for the first time.

This model is based on the hull lines taken from the actual yacht in 1851. This was done by the British Admiralty when she was in England for the race. The dockyard surveyors had a proven track record of accurate measurement of many hundreds of vessels over a span of several centuries. Thus these lines provide a true shape of the yacht at that point in time. She measured 95' 6" on deck, 23' extreme beam, and drew 11' aft.

The other important source of information on her construction is the Cedergren material. This consists of sketches, watercolor renderings of her interior, and a scale plan, all made by Pehr Wilhelm Cedergren of Sweden. He personally inspected the yacht when she was in England. This information is to be found in the Log of Mystic Seaport Vol. 29 #3, Oct. 1977. I used this material to reconstruct her interior layout and furnishings.

The framing dimensions come from the list of scantlings on the Stearman sail plan, dated Oct. 31, 1851. This list also provides much additional information on her construction. Poplar was used for the framing, with apple wood for all other structural components. Dark apple contrasts with lighter sapwood to delineate the scarph joints in the keel.

It is not generally recognized that the AMERICA was built with diagonal iron strapping. This type of reinforcing is documented in the building of the clipper GREAT REPUBLIC as well as other vessels. It appears to have come into use right about 1850, and thus the AMERICA was one of the first vessels to have it. There is a newspaper article which states that she had diagonal iron braces, about four feet apart. This is the sports paper Spirit of the Times, dated June 22, 1851. But most interesting are the photographs taken inside the yacht when she was at Trumpy's yard at Annapolis. These very clearly show these braces. Circumstantial evidence also supports their use. The photos taken of the AMERICA show that she never hogged, and this would be impossible with the small backbone she had, unless there was some other system of support for the hull.

The methods of construction follow that which I found used on CORONET of 1885, and THOMAS F. BAYARD of 1880. The New York Marine register and New York Lloyds standards provided information on how the knees and deck beams were constructed and placed. The framing on the starboard side is cut away in two areas to show how the iron braces were fitted. The first course was laid against the inside of the framing, with the frames being cut away or rabbeted so the iron was flush with the inside surface of the framing. The next course of iron was laid at 90 degrees to the first, and riveted at the crossings. The ceiling was scored and rabbeted to fit over the second course of iron, and thus be flush with the framing on the inside of the vessel. I have shown this on the model.

The deck fittings are of choice dark apple wood to imitate mahogany. Early photographs of actual yachts show mostly natural finished deck furniture, with white reserved for the inside of the bulwarks. The furnishings are waxed to give a sheen that looks like gloss varnish at scale.

The early 1800's was a period of transition in the manner of laying the deck planking. All vessels prior to about 1810 had the deck planks laid 'sprung', that is with a curved taper to match the shape of the hull. Thus the planking would start out at the centerline running straight fore and aft, but gradually curve so that it matched the curve of the side of the ship. This is described as late as 1856 in the Practical Shipbuilder by Lauchlin McKay, page 66. The evidence for this method being used before that time is overwhelming. I laid the deck aft of the break in this manner, and left all the deck plank off the deck forward of the break. This follows the procedure used on the fishing schooners.

The stern carving is based on the original which is preserved today at a yacht club. The trailboard decoration follows the design on the British lines drawing as copied by Chapelle. All are carved from boxwood and natural finished.

There are three figures on the model. John Cox Stevens, Commodore of the New York Yacht club and a prime figure in the syndicate formed to create the yacht, is seated in the cockpit. He gestures with his right arm 'across the pond' to indicate the future course of the venture. In his left hand he holds a telescope, symbolic of navigation and vision for the future. The other figure in the cockpit is George Steers, designer of the AMERICA. At his right side are papers representing the correspondence which brought about the birth of the yacht. In his left hand he holds a ruler, symbolizing his role as designer. Another figure is placed in the focs'l just to show scale. Various crew items are placed there, and some kitchen utensils clutter up the galley. A cat pursues an elusive quarry along the top of the keelson. The doorknobs are turned from holly, and all the brasswork is lacquered.

The model is mounted on cherry pedestals and placed on a plinth with black walnut trim. The nameplate features my own calligraphic design.           
                                         -Lloyd McCaffrey

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J. Russell Jinishian Gallery, Inc.
1899 Bronson Road, Fairfield, CT  06824
Telephone: 203.259.8753 . Fax: 203.259.8761 . Email: rjinishian@optonline.net

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