The longboat was just that. It was the largest and most heavily built boat carried by a ship. Longboats were generally scaled to the ship they served, with one-third to one half the length of the ship's keel providing the size for the boat. It was sometimes towed behind, but at sea was almost always carried safely on deck. One has to marvel at the skill of the sailors in hoisting aboard such a large and unwieldy object.
Stern sheets of the Mayflower replica's longboat. Photo: Adam Wolfe.
Link to the Mayflower replica in the USA.
The longboat was a general utility boat. It was used for carrying people
and provisions to and from shore; it might be sent with the watering
party and their water casks; and in times of war might carry a cutting
out party, with oars muffled, in among anchored enemy shipping. In calm
conditions it could be used to tow the ship into harbour or away from
a dangerous reef; and one can imagine the sweating and exhausted sailors
putting the backs to the oars as they attempt to extricate the mother
ship from the clutches of the rocks.
Leeboards are typical of Dutch and English vessels operating in the swallow tidal waters of the South East of England and the shifting sand flats of Holland. Boats were built flat bottomed in order to dry out safely at low tide, but in order to sail to windward they needed some form of lateral resistance. Leeboards were simple and strong and did not require a trunk to be built for a centreboard.
Iron bound leeboards on the Mayflower replica's longboat. Photo: Adam Wolfe.
Have a look at some other beautiful leeboards at www.leeboards.com
Western Australia has been lucky enough to see a number of replica ships being built. The Endeavour and Duyfken were both built in Fremantle and were very historically accurate. The Endeavour now lives at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, while the Duyfken berthed again in Fremantle after a long stay on the East Coast.
The Batavia Longboat and the Duyfken sailing off Geraldton in 2004. Photo: Frank Sindelar
It was the vision of the Western Australian Museum Geraldton and the
Central West College of TAFE to build a replica that could one day re-enact
Pelsaert's epic voyage. Building proceeded under the guidance of
Les Crawley who instructed four apprentices; Felix Dubendorfer, Geoff
Sherlock, Kim Hatfield and newcommer Erin.
"In closing I should mention that the design is based on boat centres and a drawing in the books of Witsen and Van Yk, and the boat that was found with the (mostly Dutch built) ship Vasa. It appears that ships' boats are fairly standard items for the whole of the 17th century and I am confident that this reconstruction will be quite close to the original boat of the ship Batavia."
The plans that De Jong produced were for a flat bottomed open boat some 10.2 metres long and 3.0 metres wide. Its topsides were built up from overlapping planks in what is known as clinker construction, where each plank is fastened to the one below it by closely spaced copper rivets. This technique had already had a long history in European boatbuilding and could produce relatively light hulls that were resilient and flexible. The longboats were built with very full and buoyant bows in order to carry the massive weight of the ship's anchor, while the sterns were much narrower and finer allowing the boat to be propelled more easily with oars.
Construction of the Longboat began with its flat bottom which was glued
up from 40mm thick planks of celery top pine. Onto this base were fastened
the frames and futtocks; the heavy sawn timbers that are fastened together
to form the "ribs" of the boat. At this stage the stem and
stern posts were also braced into position.