Design, Construction, and Schedule

Her Design Process

Early in the planning stages, the Friends Good Will Steering Committee had to consider how to build this vessel. The answer was directly related to a number of other important matters: cost of construction, cost of maintenance, ease of maintenance, (either by museum staff and volunteers or professionals), who would build her, (very early in the process we ruled out building her ourselves), and appearance.

While the intent is to build a vessel that looks and sails like an early 19th century Great Lakes trading vessel, traditional construction (plank on frame) was quickly ruled out. Cost, construction time and materials were factors, as was maintenance. Perhaps the most convincing argument against traditional construction came from the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety officer who has been assisting the committee. His comment was that if we ever wanted this vessel to be inspected for carrying passengers, and we do, "don't use traditional construction or gasoline engines."

So, off we went looking for alternatives. The gasoline engine question was easy; we had always intended that the vessel have diesel power. Construction alternatives included steel, aluminum, and composite construction. Composite can mean anything from fiberglass to sophisticated wood/epoxy laminates and even more exotic techniques used in "one off" vessel construction. Steel has been used in building many sailing vessels, including some designed to resemble traditional vessels. It is strong, durable, easy to maintain over a long period, but difficult to make look like an early 19th century vessel. The same goes for aluminum. The committee determined that the added work to make the vessel appear traditional would increase the cost and complexity of the vessel making these both steel and aluminum unduly complicated.

The committee considered a number of builders but settled on Scarano Boat Building of Albany, NY. The Scarano staff has experience building in all materials and is considered a leader in building historic replicas using modern wood laminate construction. Among the vessels to Scarano's credit using this type of construction, are the sailing ships America, Madeleine, Adirondack, Adirondack II, and Friendship of Salem, and the motor vessel Horicon.

So the decision was to build in what John Scarano calls "wood laminate construction."

What is wood laminate construction? It is a blend of the old and the new. In a great many ways the vessel is being built as an early 19th century vessel would have been built, and we are using wood. But that's where the similarity ends. Friends Good Will has an inner keel ("Hog" or keelson) that is made of layers of cedar. The resulting timber is cut to shape and planed. The bottom is beveled. The end result is a timber, as if from one tree, except that it is lighter, stronger, and rot resistant. The vessel has frames, set on the inner keel at their station marks and held together at the base and at the deck level by laminated deck beams. All of this creates a very stiff monocoque structure that is superior in form and function to the original. It is as John Scarano says, ". . . as if the trees grew into the desired hull shape." This wood laminate construction technique solves the problem of finding materials of a size and quality to build a vessel. In 1810 they would have been available locally. Today a great many of them would have to be imported in these sizes.

In the early 19th century, the spars (masts and booms) would have been made of one piece of wood, either cut to shape by hand, or turned on a spar lathe. In keeping with our modern construction techniques, all spars but the bowsprit and topsail yard for Friends Good Will are hollow. This saves weight aloft and improve safety and sailing ability. The spars are made of tapered staves, fir or spruce, glued together with Resorcinol glue resulting in a very light and strong spar. Likewise, all the rigging, both standing and running, is of modern materials woven or fabricated to look authentic for the period, as will the sails. While built of modern materials, the rigging functions in an entirely traditional manner with no modern power assists.

While no one knows exactly how the original Friends Good Will looked, our research has uncovered enough data that we are confident that we have created a vessel which might fool even some of the original crew. And yet, we have a modern vessel with all the safety and sailing ability that modern materials and methods can afford us.

Back to Top

Basic Specifications of Friends Good Will


Included in the plans for the hull of the vessel is a state-of-the-art interactive classroom suitable for teaching school children and other interested groups. This educational environment will be lighted and heated for year-round instruction without losing the integrity of the 1810 design.

  • Sparred length (from end of bowsprit to end of boom): 101'
  • Length on Deck: 56' 5 "
  • Beam (width at widest section): 16' 10"
  • Draft (depth at deepest point): 8' 9"
  • Gross Registered Tonnage: 54 tons
  • Displacement (weight): 150,000 lbs approx./51 long tonnes
  • Rig: Square Topsail Sloop (the only one of its type operating on the Great Lakes; very rare, even nationwide)
  • Rig Height: 80'
  • Armament: One (1) six pound long gun on a pivot (historically accurate and the only one of its kind)
  • Full Crew Complement: 14
  • Passengers for Day Sails: 28
  • Certification: USCG Inspected Vessel, Subchapter T (for passengers)
  • Sail Area: 3,180 sq. ft.

Trees and Treenails

The frames are constructed much the same way as the inner keel, bent to their final shape in layers between dogs (blocks that define the shape) and glued together, again with Resorcinol, then removed and planed to their sided dimension of 2-1/2 and 7 inches. These are set up on the inner keel at their station marks and held together at the base by "floors" (structural members not to be confused with floors in a house or decks on a boat) and at the deck level by laminated deck beams. The planking or outer skin of the vessel was built in layers. The first layer is 7/8" thick and glued and fastened to the frames fore and aft (horizontally) with epoxy glue and stainless steel fasteners.

The second layer is 3/4" thick, applied diagonally, face gluing it with epoxy to the first layer and edge gluing each plank to the one next to it. The third and final layer, 1/2" thick, is face glued to the second layer and edge glued to itself. This layer is also applied fore and aft which gives the appearance of a traditionally planked vessel. The resulting hull thickness is a 1-5/8" thick solid wood epoxy structure.

The deck is constructed the same way. Three layers, the first being fastened and glued to the laminated deck beam, oriented fore and aft, the second laid athwartship (across the vessel from one side to the other) face glued to the first, then a third layer oriented the same as the first. Each plank of the third layer is rabbeted (have a groove cut in it) between the planks which is caulked to look like an original deck.

Construction Progress

It's the end of June and the ship is planked, the deck beams installed, the hatches framed, the deadwood area of the keel is molded in two halves, the lead is arriving for the keel, the engine and tanks have arrived, the staves for the faff are cut and ready for gluing, and the jig for the mast staves is planned to its correct angles for gluing (all 62' of the lower mast!).

Next, Scarano Boatbuilding will be framing bunks and bulkheads in the interior, installing the engine, laying deck planking, and fastening the deadwood.

On Schedule

Friends Good Will was launched in Albany, NY on August 29, 2004. The standing rigging was prepared around August 10, which permitted the incline test and sea trials prior to departure.