Building Jambalaya, a 73' Windward Schooner
Jambalaya was built in 2002 and her new owners, Peter and Sylvie Bennett, completed a full re-fit at the end of 2009.
Jambalaya is the first Antillean schooner to be built in many years on the island of Carriacou, once one of the great centres of wooden boat construction in the Caribbean. Crafted by the last master shipwrights on the island, she is an authentic and actual expression of the wooden ship-building culture that once dominated the Caribbean.
The Construction Process.
First find your wood. Guyana supplied the lumber: greenheart (a wood that is so dense and heavy it sinks) for the 40ft keel and 24ft keelson and the planking of Silverbali and Determa, which took a long while to source as the lengths required were hard to find.
Next was to get the timbers for framing. The builders tried to use a contact to send timbers up from Grenada, but this failed -- as these timbers must have the right shape for the bow stem and the right curves -- for the pieces sent were too straight. Two shipments later we still did not have the right timbers.
Finally, they all went to Grenada and into the bush to choose, cut, and haul out our "compass timbers" — timbers chosen for their natural shape for strength and application. This was WORK, very interesting to see your boat in the air and more so to see it come down. The work was hard on all, the hauling out especially.
Difficulties were still to come as the loading on to a ship proved. Firstly the trucks could not bring out the timbers because of heavy rainfall, and arrangements made again had the trucks on the dock but no ship! The timbers were unloaded on to the Carenage, taking up much-sought-after parking spaces. At least the logs did not get a parking ticket, nor were they clamped or towed away.
When the ship finally arrived with all the lumber in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, they were lifted overboard and swung ashore, hauled up and stacked! The White Cedar (Tabebebuia hetorophylla) forms all the structural timbers and are shaped by hand.
This wood is of such importance to the islands that it deserves additional comments, the first being that it is not really a cedar at all. In fact, it is a deciduous tree with glossy dark green leaves and pale purple, trumpet shaped flowers. It might be better called West Indian Oak. Like oak, the wood is light in colour, tough, rot resistant and holds fastenings extremely well. In habitats with abundant rainfall, this species forms a tall, straight tree; on the arid, salt-sprayed windward coasts, the tree grows tougher and denser, forming the curved and twisted shapes that are ideally suited to boat construction. The timbers are cut only when the moon is waning, when it is believed the sap is out of the wood, allowing better curing and rot resistance.
Other wood used for a special purpose was Seagrape, a tough beach side tree whose irregular right-angle turns made it ideal for the big stern post knee. Fastenings for the keel, floors, frames, butt blocks and planking are all made from silicon bronze. Traditionally, vessels were ballasted internally. Some was used this way, but also 5 tons were added to the keel for a more upright sailing ability.
All decked vessels built in the Lesser Antilles have overhanging sterns, with the exception of the Tortola Antigua sloops. In Carriacou, this overhang is proportionately longer than elsewhere. This look adds to the handsome sheer line, but involves a more substantial construction, unique to the island.
Hurricane season is between June and the end of November. Although the Grenadines are fortunate to be south of this activity, they still have to be aware of tropical storms and depressions. In November 1999, the islands suffered from the surge caused by Hurricane Lenny – there were 30 or so large logs for timbers washed away. Fortunately they were slowly recovered from all over the bay.
The building was a challenge to the skills ingenuity and resources of all of those involved. The time taken and costs were under-estimated but finally the glorious day of launching was reached on April 4th, 2002
Launch Day Arrives
The Saraca (celebration) was a true feast of local dishes including a massive cauldron of Jambalaya. Much rum and beer was consumed during the efforts to ease her into her natural element, the sea.
Rigging, stepping of the masts and fitting out took a lot more work and resources until she was commissioned in November 2002 and sailed her first passengers for Petit St. Vincent.
She has proven to be a wonderful reward for all that went into her, a reputation for grace and speed firmly established amongst the islands and seas she happily sails.
Long live Jambalaya!
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Enjoy the very special experience of being under full sail on our traditional wooden schooner and journey back in time to sailing as it was!