Bluenose Canadian Schooner

Booms and Gaffs

June 12, 2017

Day 437.

In addition to the main and fore masts, there are a number of booms and gaffs on the Bluenose.  While masts are vertical, booms and gaffs are horizontal.  Booms are low, close to the deck, and gaffs are higher up on the masts.

The Bluenose has three booms and two gaffs.


The main boom sits at the base of the main mast and runs off the stern of the ship.  The fore boom sits on the fore mast, and lies between the two masts.  The jumbo jib boom attaches to the bowsprit, and runs towards the fore mast.

Higher up, the fore gaff hangs from the fore mast and sits between the fore and main masts, while the main gaff hangs from the main mast and points towards the stern.

These five pieces are relatively simple in their construction.  They are all made from shaped dowel rods.  A few have jaws at one end that go around the mast.  They all have some amount of metal work (bands, etc.), and several have wooden cleats.

These are all tapered, and are thinner at their ends than in the middle.  Generally, one side is flat, along the side where the sails will be stitched.

I started with the main boom as it is the most complex, then worked my way through the other booms.  Then I built the two gaffs.

Main Boom

The main boom rests on the boom rest of the main mast and runs off the back of the ship.  The bottom of the main sail is held by this boom.

To start, I made the jaws and clapper that will hold one end to the mast.  The Model Shipways Bluenose kit provides laser cut pieces for the jaws, which were cut loose and sanded to remove laser char.

The tapered dowel rod was flattened on two sides where the jaws will be mounted.  I did this with my milling machine, but it can also be easily done with a metal file or sanding block.  A small clapper was made from a piece of strip wood.  The clapper tilts back and forth so it can line up with the mast.


The jaws for the main boom.

The jaws were glued on and everything was stained.  I’m staining the booms and gaffs with Minwax Cherry to match the masts and deck.

I also drilled a number of holes.  Holes were drilled on the top for the eye bolt and belaying pins as indicated on the plans.  I also drilled holes on the outside edge of each jaw.  Here I drilled four holes for fake bolts, holes to pin the clapper in place, and holes at the tips for the parrel beads.  The parrel beads won’t be added until we’re doing all the rigging, but they are basically a set of round beads strung along a rope that runs between the jaws.


Once assembled and stained, various holes are drilled and ‘bolts’ are glued in.

Once all the hardware is installed, the clapper is pinned in place.


The completed jaws for the main boom.

Next I made the wooden cleat for the main boom.  This was shaped from some basswood strip, and a pin was glued in the bottom for added stability.


A cleat made from wood.

The cleat was glued in place according to the plans.  I also made two small staples from brass wire and glued them in place to hold the rope eyes for the lazy jack line.


The installed cleat and the staples for the lazy jack line.

The lazy jack line was made from some black rigging line that had an eye splice in each end.


The lazy jack line’s eye splices.

Next up are some fairleads.  The plans show two fairleads held in place by rope.  The topping lift line runs through one of these fairleads.  While I’ve simply used eyebolts for fairleads in other places, I decided to try and fashion some for the main boom.  Since these were held in place by rope, if I use eyebolts I’ll be missing the rope detail.

I started with some brass tube that had a fairly thick wall.  I used my milling machine and a pointed bit to shape a groove into the brass tube.


Brass tube gets a grove around it to make the fairleads.

The grooved piece was then sliced off, creating a little round metal piece with a hole through the center and a groove around the outside edge.  I made two of these.


A slice of grooved brass tube will become a fairlead.

I also fashioned the first metal piece for the main boom – for the boom tackle band.  This was made similarly to how various other metal pieces were  made for the masts.


The boom tackle band is made from brass strip and eyebolts.

The boom tackle band was installed along with the rope and fairleads.  For the fairleads, rope was looped around each fairlead (into the grooves), then tied off.


The boom tackle band installed.  The fairleads are attached with rope.

Next were the quarter lift band and main sheet band.   The main sheet band has a bail on the bottom.  This was made from brass wire.


The main sheet band and bail.

At the other end of the boom, I added the clew band.  The clew band will have a bolt through it for connecting a line, but I’m leaving the bolt out until I connect the rigging.

The sheaves for the topping lifts were made using my mill, just like I did for the top masts.  Finally a band and assorted eye bolts were installed at the very end according to the plans.


The clew band, sheaves, and eyebolts at the end of the main boom.

The main boom is by far more complex than the other booms and gaffs, with many more pieces to make.  The others should go much faster.

The main boom is test-fit on the ship.


The ship just got several inches longer.

The jaws go around the main mast and rest on the boom rest.


The jaws fit around the main mast.

The other end hangs off the stern.  Right now the main boom is resting on the boom crutch.  Once the rigging is installed, it will be lifted up off the crutch.


The other end hangs off the stern.

Fore Boom

The fore boom attaches to the fore mast and runs between the fore and main masts.  It is considerably smaller and simpler than the main boom.

Unlike the main boom, the fore boom doesn’t have a set of jaws.  Instead, it has a special metal tip that allows it be attached to the gooseneck.

I made this by bending a piece of brass strip to the right shape, drilling holes for a bolt, then gluing it onto the end of the boom.  I wrapped some brass tape around the end to make it look like the whole thing was a ‘cap’ on the end of the boom.


A ‘cap’ is made that will attach to the gooseneck on the fore mast.

The fore boom has four metal bands.  These were all fairly easy to make and are similar to what was done on the main boom.


Various metal fittings are made for the fore boom.

The various bands were installed.


Fittings are installed.

The completed fore boom has the four bands in place, along with a wooden cleat (made just like the one on the main boom).


The completed fore boom.

Jumbo Jib Boom

The third boom is the jumbo jib boom.  This boom is at the front of the ship.  It attaches to the bowsprit, and runs back to the fore mast.

The jumbo jib boom attaches to the bowsprits traveller bar, which was a piece of metal wire that was installed on the top of the bowsprit.  I just need to add the hardware to hold the boom to the bar.

I wrapped the end of the boom with some thin brass, then drilled a set of four holes in the bottom.  I bent brass wire into two ‘U’ shaped pieces and glued them in.


A band with U shaped wire will attach the jumbo jib boom to the bowsprit.

The rest of the jumbo jib boom is very simple – just three metal bands that are nearly identical to those on the fore boom.



The completed jumbo jib boom.

The jumbo jib boom is then attached to the bar on the bowsprit.  The bar wasn’t glued in when I built the bowsprit, so I just pulled it out, slid the boom on, then put the wire back into the bowsprit.  I still haven’t glued it in, because I’ll be removing the boom to work on rigging.


The jumbo jib boom attached to the bowsprit.

When it isn’t being held up by rigging, the top of the gear assembly forms the boom’s crutch.


The boom rests on the gear assembly.

Fore Gaff

The two fore gaffs are similar to the booms.

The fore gaff hangs between the fore and main masts.  Like the main boom, it has a set of jaws that wrap around the mast.  These were constructed just like the ones on the main boom, although there was a slightly different set of eyebolts.


The jaws of the fore gaff.

The bands on the fore boom are simple.  There are two bands that will later get bolts – these are used for the peak halliards.  At the end is a band with two rings, along with a small hole where the sail will be attached.


Metal fittings on the fore gaff.


The completed fore gaff.

Main Gaff

The main gaff also gets a set of jaws, assembled just like the others.


The jaws on the main gaff.

The main gaff only has one band, at the very end.  However, it has a good number of wooden chocks.

Near the center of the gaff  are two stop chocks for the peak halliard bridles.  These were made from wide pieces of 1/32″ basswood and glued in place.  Once they were securely attached, they were sanded to shape.  A hole was drilled through each one.

Additionally, there are 10 smaller stop chocks running towards the end of the gaff.  These are positioned on the bottom side in pairs (one on the bottom port side, one on the bottom starboard side).

These were made from small lengths of 1/32″ square strip wood.  The pieces were cut to length, glued on, then sanded to shape.


The completed main gaff.

The booms and gaffs went surprisingly fast.  I went into the weekend expecting to get the main boom finished, and possibly start on the fore boom.  I managed to finish all five pieces with a little time to spare.


All the booms and gaffs.  From top to bottom: jumbo jib boom, fore boom, main boom, main gaff, and fore gaff.


Just for fun, I made some metal hooks from brass wire and tied them to some black thread.  I used these to lift up the booms and gaffs so I could see where everything goes.  It is pretty neat to see the ship coming together.

At this point, all I really have left is rigging.  I’m done with the actual construction.

Since I’ll be doing as much of the rigging as I can with the masts off the ship, I’ll start by removing all these pieces and pulling the masts out.  Then I’ll do a quick pass on the ship’s hull and deck to deal with any lingering issues.  For example, I still need to glue in the oars for the dories, stain and install the barrels, etc.

Once that’s done, I’ll start in on the standing rigging.


Construction is done.  All that remains is rigging.