Shipwrecks: Sailing Canal Boat (Wreck TTT)

Wreck TTT, a sailing canal boat, lies just off the historic Brown’s Brickyard in Colchester, Vermont. The remains are poorly preserved, with only the very bottom of the hull surviving. The remains were preliminarily documented during one dive. Significant portions of the extant remains were buried below the sandy bottom sediments, and no effort was made to expose or document these portions of the wreck.

The overall length of the remaining hull was 60ft 2 in (18.3m), and the beam was 14ft 2in (4.3m). The beam measurement indicates that the vessel was built sometime after 1858, based on the maximum allowable breadth of canal boats in the Champlain Canal. The length of this vessel would have been approximately 88ft (26.8m). The hull’s features comprise only the bottom of the hull. No features associated with a bow or stern were observed. The visible hull parts include: the chine logs, floors, keelson, centerboard trunk, bilge stringers, and futtocks. Other features such as the keel and planking are presumed to be extant, however, they were not exposed above the sediments.

Plan drawing of Wreck TTT. Drawn by Adam Kane

Due to the scant preserved remains, researchers were not able to determine with certainty which end of the vessel was the bow and which the stern. However, based on the construction of Wreck WWW, the southern end may be the bow. Wreck WWW had a wide flat keelson forward of the centerboard trunk and a smaller keelson aft. Wreck TTT had a similar keelson arrangement.

Overall, the hull was built using the plank-on-frame method. The construction technique parallels that used on other documented sailing canal boats such as General ButlerO.J. Walker, and Wreck WWW. The framing pattern consisted of flat floors and vertical futtocks. The floors and futtocks were connected via a longitudinally oriented chine log. The floors and futtocks were arranged in an alternating pattern, with futtocks mortised into the chine log between the floors. In typical ship construction, all of the components of a frame (floor[s] and futtock[s]) would be situated along the same transverse line. However, in this case the use of a chine log as a central part of the framing warranted a different construction pattern. If the futtock and floor of Wreck TTT had been in the same transverse line, two adjacent mortises would have been cut into the chine log, thereby weakening the chine log. The alternating framing pattern avoids this weakness.

With the overall construction pattern in mind, the framing details can be fit into context. The floors were between 3 and 4in (7.6 and 10.2cm) sided; their molded dimension was not recorded. The outboard ends of the floors were tenoned into a chine log. Based on other similarly built canal boats, the tenons are likely to be half-dovetails. The tenons were fit into mortises on the inside of the chine log, and wedged in place. The sides of this canal boat were framed with vertically oriented futtocks. Although these futtocks were almost entirely decayed, a few of their bases remained in the chine log mortises. Although poorly preserved, evidence of a wedge holding them in place was noted.

The central feature of the hull was the centerboard trunk, a watertight box inside the lines of the hull in which the centerboard was housed. The trunk allowed the centerboard to be lowered while under sail and raised while being towed in the canal. The scant remains of the trunk consisted of two parallel planks that made up the sides and two vertically oriented stanchions (only one is extant) that made up the ends. The centerboard was located in the 7in (17.8cm) gap between the planks. At one end of the trunk a transverse drift pin was driven between the trunk planks. This pin was used to secure the sides of the trunk to the stanchion, although the stanchion was not present. This same feature was almost certainly used to secure the other stanchion as well, however, since that stanchion was still present the fastener was not visible.

Wreck TTT had a series of bilge stringers on either side of the centerboard trunk. These features served to stiffen the long narrow hull. Outboard of the bilge stringers, one section of ceiling was preserved. This plank was fastened to the upper face of the floors. Each end of the ceiling had a scarf, indicating the former presence of other ceiling. Small sections of the keelson were preserved along the length of the hull. The keelson at the (presumed) forward end of the hull had a sided dimension of 1ft 4in (40.6cm), and an estimated moulded dimension of 4in (10.2cm). The after keelson had a sided dimension of 5in (12.7cm) and an estimated molded dimension of 4in (10.2cm).

Overall, the remains of Wreck TTT are poorly preserved, representing only the very bottom of the hull. This level of preservation has, however, allowed researchers to examine the construction of the bottom of a sailing canal boat. Its construction, in general, was consistent with other examples of sailing canal boats that have been studied. The lack of any visible cargo or artifacts indicates that the vessel’s placement may have been intentional. It could have sunk while tied to the Clay Point Dock, and the proprietors saw no need to move the hulk. Another possibility is that the vessel was placed there as an extension of the dock. 

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.