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Sailing Canal Boat (Wreck UUU)

The remains of Wreck UUU lie several hundred yards south of Wreck TTT and near the Brown’s Brickyard Site. Like Wreck TTT, this vessel was a sailing canal boat, but they differ on nearly all points of their construction. The extant remains of Wreck UUU were 39ft (11.9m) long, and the vessel’s beam was 12ft 10 in (3.9m). This beam was consistent with the earliest canal boats on the Champlain Canal, built between 1823 and 1858.

Plan drawing of Wreck UUU. Drawn by Adam Kane.

The remains consist of about the forward half of the very bottom of the hull. A scatter of bricks runs parallel to the extant hull and outlines the area where the rest of the hull should have been. This depositional pattern is indicative of a concerted salvage effort. Based on the limited evidence, it seems that the wreck was carrying a cargo of bricks and sank in the shallow waters just south of the Clay Point Dock.

In most cases it would be presumed that cargo and other useful items from such a shallow wreck would be salvaged, leaving the hull to slowly degrade in situ. Natural decay, however, would not result in the pattern of hull and artifact remains that are on the bottom today. Based on the available evidence, it is probable that the wreck was ripped in half during salvage activities. Workers at the brickyard may have attempted to pull the wreck into shallower water, hoping to salvage the cargo and repair the hull. The hull may have been accidentally destroyed in this process, casting a good number of the deck-loaded bricks into the lake. Additional research at the site may disprove this theory, but it is the only scenario that fits the archaeological data.

Although only a small portion of the hull was preserved, its construction is quite interesting. The extant remains include: a chine log, planking, centerboard trunk, floors, first futtocks, keelson, sister keelsons, and bilge stringers. The sides of the hull were edge fastened, meaning that the side strakes were fastened to each other by drift pins driven vertically through the edges of the strakes. This shipbuilding technique tightly joined the sides of the vessel into a single wall of timber. Edge fastened construction also changes the way the rest of the hull was built relative to the more traditional plank-on-frame method. The bottom planking for the run of the hull was oriented transversely, and was supported inside the hull by longitudinally oriented bilge stringers. Although this technique was well suited to building the rectangular mid-section of the hull, it was not used for the moulded bow. The forward 12ft (3.7m) of the hull was built in the plank-on-frame tradition. Bottom planking in the bow was oriented longitudinally, and the side strakes were not edge fastened. This juxtaposition of construction techniques has been noted previously on at least three Lake Champlain shipwrecks: Wreck NN, Wreck Z and Wreck SSS.

One of the hull’s most interesting features was the base of the centerboard trunk, which differs from others recorded on Lake Champlain’s sailing canal boats. At the forward end of the trunk, the same piece of wood served as the beginning of the trunk and the keelson. This was accomplished by using a curved piece of compass wood. Only one plank from the trunk was still present, but this plank had drift bolts protruding from its upper face, indicating that the sides of the trunk were edge fastened.

The keelson had a diagonal scarf just forward of the trunk. This scarf was reinforced by sister keelsons on either side. These sister keelsons had two mortises cut into their upper faces. The mortises were used to hold the base of the mast tabernacle. The keelson ends at the first frame, and forward of that point fillers were placed between the floors.

The hull’s longitudinal features included a chine log and two bilge stringers. The chine log served as the bottom side strake, to which the next stake above was fastened. This was evidenced by drift bolts protruding from the upper face of the chine log and a rabbet on the outboard edge of the chine log to accept the strake. The bottom of the hull had two bilge stringers, which both would have run the entire length of the hull. The hull’s bottom planks were oriented transversely, and range in width from 9in to 16in (23 to 41cm). Most of the bottom planks span the entire breadth of the hull, however, the planks near the centerboard trunk do not. These planks were attached in two sections with a gap in the middle, opening up the bottom of the centerboard trunk.

As stated above, the bow section was built plank-on-frame. The floors were flat and spanned the breadth of the hull, fastening to the first futtocks at the turn of the bilge. The first futtocks were curved pieces of compass wood, essentially standing knees, used to bind the side of the vessel to the bottom. The first futtocks were lap joined to the floors with iron drift bolts. Fillers that would have been overlain by the no longer extant keelson were spaced between each floor along the vessel’s centerline. The original placement of the keelson was determined by the presence of iron drift bolts along the centerline of the floors.

The remains of Wreck UUU were poorly preserved, perhaps representing 15 percent of the entire hull. These remains, however, contain important information about combining edge-fastening and plank-on-frame construction. This technique is not well understood, however, the exposed nature of these hull remains make it ideal for learning how the techniques were meshed together. The wreck’s deposition pattern is peculiar, and LCMM researchers are not convinced that the scenario outlined above would continue to be plausible if more information was collected at the site.


Information Source:
Adam I. Kane, Christopher R. Sabick and Sara R. Brigadier, Lake Champlain Underwater Cultural Resources Survey, Volume VI: 2001 Results and Volume VII: 2002 Results. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, 2003.