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Updated: Nov. 24th, 2007

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Copyright  2007, Titanic The Ship Magnificent.

A ridge spar from one of the lifeboats of the Georgic. The ridge spar was supported by braces fit into clamps on the thwarts and provided a peak for the canvas cover in order that rain would run off. H&W / Author’s collection

Copyright  2007, Titanic The Ship Magnificent.

A photograph of the interior of Harland & Wolff’s Boat Shed contemporary to Titanic’s era. The Engineer / Author’s collection

 These Holmes Light Illustration. Author’s collection.

   Introduction - While the general subject of Titanic's lifeboats has been written about a great deal, technical descriptions of the lifeboats have been sparse. There are no known surviving plans of Titanic’s 16 open boats, and it is probable that there never were any as this type of boat was usually built “to the eye” with a mere midship mold. However, it is known that lifeboats were built to specifications set forth by the Board of Trade, and a surveyor would have inspected the boats on many occasions while under construction to ensure that the specifications were followed.

   Titanic’s lifeboats were the “double bow,” or “double-ender,” type, and were supplied with the equipment required by the Board of Trade at the time. It should be understood, however, that being “supplied with” and being “fitted with” were two different terms. For instance, even though the lifeboats were supplied with spirit compasses, they were not stowed in the boats, but instead in a locker on deck, and were never placed in the boats prior to their being launched
. . . (continued)


Image above, These Holmes Light Illustration - Holmes Lights were intended to mark the position of a man overboard at night.
Author’s collection


   Framing - The foundations, or what were generally referred to as the “keel boards,” were made from sound and substantial 6' x 3' American Elm. The keel boards were not part of the boat, but served as a base upon which the keel rested as the boat was constructed. In beginning construction, the keel boards were first tied to good, heavy foundation blocks, anchored in the ground and prevented from movement by piles or stakes. The blocks were arranged at short intervals under the keel boards to prevent hogging or sagging.

   The keel was in one length and selected from wood that was straight in the grain, as objectionable knots and swirls were carefully avoided. The keel was placed on the keel boards and kept perfectly straight in a fore-and-aft direction by driving in wedges between the keel and cleats attached to the keel boards
. . . (continued)


   Boat equipment - The type of equipment stowed within a lifeboat was determined by the class of vessel. Kept within the boats were some of the gear and provisions required such as oars, sails and masts, water etc. Oil lamps, biscuits, and compasses were stored on the ship “in some convenient place” ready for use as required. However, due to the circumstances of confusion and excitement at the time of sinking, many of the lifeboats were launched without these provisions. It must be remembered that there were no ship-wide lifeboat drills for the crew in 1912, nor was there any means by which the Bridge could communicate with the crews at the individual boats short of detailing someone to go to each boat to relay instructions.

   Oil lamps for the main boats were brought out by the ship’s Lamp Trimmer after a number of them had already been launched. These lamps were rectangular in shape, about 10 inches high, 6 inches square
. . (continued)


   The Welin Quadrant davit - Titanic was fitted with 16 sets of double-acting quadrant davits manufactured by the Welin Davit and Engineering Co., London. The Welin davits had long cast-steel arms intended to carry a boat well over the side of the ship; these could also accommodated the stowing of lifeboats one on top the other, and/or inboard of each other. Although this extra capacity was not used on Titanic, it would be employed on Olympic later in her career. The Welin davits allowed the lowering of boats from many different athwartship positions, whether the boats were positioned directly between the davits or inboard of them. The spacing between the davit arms equaled the distance between the forward and after ends of each boat. The bases of the davit arms were cast in the shape of a quadrant and fitted with teeth which engaged with a corresponding toothed casting at the base of the davit frame. . . (continued)

Other topics in this chapter:

Dimensions and capacities - 25-foot emergency cutters - Englehardt collapsibles - Measurements and capacities - Boat equipment - The Welin Quadrant davit - Davit blocks and falls - Lifebuoys and lifebelts plus full technical details on boat construction, including: Framing - Planking - Timbers - Internal fittings - Buoyancy air cases - Thwarts (seats) - Gunwales - Side benches - Thwart knees - Rubbing plank - Tank cleading - Rudder and steering arrangements - Life lines - Equipment lockers - Mast Step - Plugs - Bottom boards, stern- and headsheets - Paint - Lifting hooks - Lowering gear - Disengaging gear

Copyright 2007 Beveridge, Hall, Andrews, Klistorner and Braunschweiger.

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