Packet Boat Construction

History of the Packet Boat phase of the project.

We began construction on June 2, 2006 on the packet boat using Captain Dick Woolling's Packet Boat as the model.  Our packet boat is located in the boat berth closest to Main Street and is highly visible from the street.  Tim Small spent hundreds of hours of research and used Computer Assisted Drawings to achieve plans that are as faithfully authentic to the design of a James River and Kanawha Canal Packet Boat as possible.  Construction was launched in a modular format on site at Canal Basin Square with volunteers.  Skills needed began with "fetch and carry" to operation of power equipment such as saws, drills, and grinders to the ability to read and interpret detailed construction drawings.  We need to stress that this was a volunteer construction task under the leadership of Tim Small!      

Journal of Volunteer work

2004-2006:  Tim Small researched and developed plans for the packet boat.

June 2, 2006:  Tim Small purchased lumber, galvanized fastners, and tools for the project.

June 26& 27:  Tim Small and John Bowers cut out main rib parts.

July 1:  Vanya Grove, Jesse Grove, Barry Grove, Bill Schneider, and John  Bowers assembled 25 of the 44 required main ribs.  

July 8:  Bill Hyson, Vanya Grove, Jesse Grove, Barry Grove, Bill Schneider, and John  Bowers assembled the remaining main ribs.  

Rib sections are placed in a jig and drilled prior to assembly
Vanya cleans up the splinters from drilling prior to assembly
Barry assembles chines with vertical rib parts.  He inserts the galvanized carriage bolts and tightens with washers and nuts

Bill Schneider keeps Bill Hyson's drilling vertical
Jesse and Bill take a break
Boat slip where the packet boat will be exhibited

L-R: Barry Grove, Jesse Grove, Vanya Grove, Bill Schneider, Bill Hyson
Assembly work crew on July 8, 2006

July 14, 2006:  Tim Small and John Bowers begin to cut rib parts for the bow and stern sections.
Tim using a template for a chine.
Making a precision cut with the laser miter saw.
One page of the plans with specifications for a rib module.
Stockpiling of the rib modules.
Preparing another chine.
Rib modules and raw materials.

Chine:  The intersection of the bottom and side of a v-bottom or flat bottom boat.

Precision cut chines awaiting assembly crew.


As Canal Basin Square is located in the ponding basin behind the Scottsville Levee, the US ARMY Corps of Engineers requires that all our replica boats be anchored so they could not float in case this area should flood in the future.  The Anchor Cradles you will see below are the visible pressure treated 6X6 beams.  There are extensive concrete portions of these anchors below the surface of the ground.

Anchor with Galvanized bolt and nut
Extender ready for additional galvanized threaded rod.
Tim preparing to level up the anchors to receive the packet boat.
Using an auger to bore holes for the threaded rods.
Raised anchor cradles to level the packet boat.
One done and four to go!
All five anchors now level.
Tim and Barry working on stringers to hold the ribs.
Oops. Wrong end so let's dance.
Wow, now we have some progress!
Fine tuning some modular parts of the ribs.
OK.  Let's think this out!

A good day's work!
April 21, 2007
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Barry Grove and Bill Cooper are tightening up bolts on the ribs.
Barry using the ratchet wrench!
Tim consults with his CAD plans as Barry and Bill use the saw.
Barry drilling pilot holes in ribs.  Tim supervising that all is plumb!
Assembly of the bottom and ribs near the front of the boat.
Assembly of ribs to the bottom frame.
Another good day's work. Saturday, April 21, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007
 Right side of boat is standing on its side to allow joining of modules and cladding of hull.
Barry bracing the side to keep it stable while we work on it.
You can see the curve of the front of the boat beginning to take shape. Note the ribs for the left side of the boat lying on the ground.
All the modules have now been bolted together and cladding of the  bottom of the hull has begun.

April 24-27, 2007:  We have completed the final ribs for the bow and stern of the boat.  Saturday we attached them, fine tuned, and began to attach the hull skin.

Vanya grinding to fine tune some ribs.

Barry cutting plywood for the hull.
Bill Hyson cutting additional plywood.

Tim attaching a rib near the bow.
The shape of the right side of the packet boat near the bow.  The right side is standing upright at this point to allow application of the hull.
Looking from the stern at the right half of the boat.
Curve of the bow beginning.
Covered up to protect from weather.
It takes a lot of tarp to cover this boat.

April 28, 2007:   The bow and stern ribs were attached and we spent a great deal of time fine tuning the alignment and installing temporary bracing.  At noon we had a hot dog tail gate picnic for all who were working.  Participants Saturday included Bill Cooper, Bill Hyson, Vanya Grove, Barry Grove, Jesse Grove, Tim Small, and John Bowers.

April 30- May 11:  Tim and John worked on the bow.
Hull taking shape.  This is a time consuming process which requires a lot of patience.
Tim working out the curves needed for the bow.
Ah!  You can begin to see the shape.
Adding screws to hold the hull boards in shape.

More work has been accomplished.
It is slow and tedious work to bend the boards to the compound curves required for the bow.
Finally, the last of the boards are in place for the right side of the hull at the bow.
Tim working with the grinder to smooth out some of the curves.

Tim  Samll
Tim Small

May 14 and 15, 2007
Tim and John are now working on the stern.

Rib assembly and fitting on the stern is now underway.
View from the stern of the last ribs and stern plate.
We will need to measure, cut, fit, and bend a lot of boards for the stern.
This shot gives us an idea of the length of this packet boat replica which is 69 feet!

In the 1800's Packet Boats hulls were typically clad with galvanized iron.  For our replica we clad the hull with copper.  Once the right side of the hull received this cladding we carefully rotated it down onto the cradles.  Then, assembled the left side of the hull as we did the right side.  Once that is completed, we rotated that side down and joined the two sided into a complete packet boat hull.  We then begin construction of the cabin atop the hull.  

Applying last of 30# felt underlayment.
Rolling out copper for the hull cladding.
These are 100ft./100lb. rolls.
June 1, 2007:  We took a break from working on the packet boat until the third week in June.  At that time we completed the last of tasks on the right side of the hull and turned it in the boat slip so we could build the left side of the hull.  We wers available on site during the Batteau Festival on Wednesday afternoon, June 20, to answer questions about the Packet Boat.

Tim installing the copper cladding to the hull.
Copper nails are used and the copper must be fitted and shaped to the compound curves of the hull.

Journal and Packet Boat replica construction photos by John Bowers

April 18: 2009:  We turned the 1/2 hull by using basic tools of a "Come-Along", steel cable, a vehicle, inflated air bags, and lots of volunteer help.  Our thanks to Mayor Phipps, Barry Long, Michael Tocci, Bill Hyson, and Barry Grove. We could not have done it without your help. Tim and John

Tim and John assessing the task.

Jesse Grove supervising to make sure we do it right!

The garden club planted beautiful tulips and it is a gorgeous day.

Air bags have been emplaced between each of the cradles to ease the hull down.

Tim gives a final briefing to the volunteers on the procedures.

John mans the "Come -Along" to ease the hull over.

The tarps on the steel cable are a safety procedure if the cable snaps.

The bags are all in position and the volunteers are at their stations.

The "Come-Along" is slowing turning the hull.

The safety caps on the bags are being removed.

Barry is checking a last safety cap.

Mayor Steve Phipps is monitoring an air bag as it deflates.

All the bags are being deflated in sequence.

An air bag is giving us a little problem here.  Michael looks on as John and Tim wrangle with the air bag.

Success!  The hull is has been completely and gently lowered into place.

The starboard half is in place.  This is a view from the stern.

Barry Grove moves into position to remove some dunnage.

The ropes securing the air bags are removed.

Cleaning up the dunnage debris.  

Note the ribs for the port half to the right in the photo.

John and Tim stowing the port ribs.

Photos by Callie Bowers

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