Mac Duggan
Newport Art Museum Youth Ambassador

Recently I accompanied the MUSE Program students from Portsmouth High School on a trip to the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, Rl. While there, I learned about the Museum’s project to build a model replica of the ship Reliance, a massive sailboat that won the America’s Cup race in 1903.

The museum’s main entrance leads to a display gallery with small models of famous America’s Cup boats, and even a model of the Herreshoff workshop as it existed in 1914, when it was still owned by Nathaniel and John Brown Herreshoff. Also on display is a gallery of photographs of all past America’s Cup winners. The next area we visited is a warehouse full of original Herreshoff boats. These boats are kept in such pristine condition that some of them are occasionally taken out on the water.

Following this extensive warehouse is a collection of tools and steam engines taken from boats. We had the privilege of receiving a tour from the Chief Collections Officer, Dyer Jones, who pointed out the innovations and intricacies of these engines designed by the Herreshoff brothers.

We walked down the street to a vast workshop where a team of volunteers are working on the 1:6 scale replica of the Reliance. This room was stuffed full of equipment and had pieces of the model scattered around the room, ready to be worked on. The original vessel was incredibly large, and is still the largest single-masted ship ever built. The project will produce a model that can actually be housed in the museum, a feat that would be impossible for the full sized ship.

The building crew has been hard at work since October of 2012, and they have recently started painting the hull of the model. The model requires many small, intricate details, like the cables that are attached to the mast which must be hand-wound by the builders due to the scale of their project. The boat is in multiple pieces; the massive mast laying across the main part of the floor, and the hull is in a tent primed for painting. Incredible attention to detail is required of all the workers.

This museum encompasses over a century of marine history and the innovations of the Herreshoff brothers in the areas of technology, manufacture and military, pleasure and racing boat design. The students were also excited to learn of many hands-on volunteer opportunities at Herreshoff Marine Museum.

Visit the Reliance Project Blog

The Reliance Project is seeking volunteers. To learn more contact the Herreshoff Marine Museum.