Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick

Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick


Peter Walsh/Telegraph-Journal Draftsman Bob Coes shows some of the blueprints of the Marco Polo replica he's donated for students' use at Simonds High School.

High school students get hands-on experience
building replica of world's fastest ship

Friday, April 02/04

   In a matter of weeks, a temporary moulding loft will be set up at Simonds High School where students will lay out rib lines for a scaled-down version of the Marco Polo.
   The young boatbuilders will have the luxury of having plans on paper to follow, thanks to Saint John draftsman Bob Coes.
   Following Mr. Coes' drawings and offset tables, they will draw the ship's lines on plywood, ultimately setting out a pattern for her 40 pair of white pine ribs.
   Next, they will transfer the pattern onto wood and cut the frames, all under the direction of their teacher, Mike Boyle.
   It is one more step in a series of exercises that began five weeks ago when Mr. Coes started studying details of the Marco Polo and her unique characteristics.
   Armed with photos and drawings completed a dozen years ago when the plan was to build a full-scale replica, he knew it would take time to produce a one-third scale, non-sailing version and still maintain the integrity of the ship's lines.
   His preliminary sketches have culminated in a first set of blueprints that provide details of the hull and the vessel shape.
   The blueprints represent one of the most important steps in seeing teacher Barry Ogden's dream become a reality. The work of Mr. Coes, a retired teacher and drafting technician, is worth thousands of dollars but, like many others, he has donated his services.
   "I've been interested in wooden sailboats all my life and have done some sailing, so I thought this was a good opportunity," said Mr. Coes.
   Mr. Ogden envisions it sitting near the lip of Long Wharf or in the water on a floating wharf, near the start of Harbour Passage.
   Unlike the ship's original four decks, there will be a modified lower deck inside, measuring 67 feet, four inches, with a bow spread of over 100 feet.
   "Passengers" will enter through a cargo door on the side of the hull and will be able to walk the main deck, continue down the companionway and explore inside. Two replica cabins will be set up, lit by a skylight in the centre.
   There may even be a stage on board from which the story of the Marco Polo could be told and an opportunity to rent the ship out for social functions.
   White pine is still being harvested for the replica, which Mr. Ogden hopes to begin assembling at Long Wharf by the end of next month.
   But Mr. Coes' work is far from over. He has next to draw a set of blueprints for the ship's 60-foot main mast and finally, a third set of more specific plans for the rigging.
   From start to finish, Mr. Ogden expects this Marco Polo replica will cost about $180,000. It's a fraction of his original $28-million proposal for a full-scale sailing replica that he began pushing for in the early 1990s. The new, modest pricetag includes labour and gifts in kind. The effort to raise the money is going well, said Mr. Ogden.
   The original Marco Polo was launched from the yard of James Smith at Marsh Creek April 17, 1851. She was the largest ship the yard had built.
   On her most famous voyage, the Marco Polo sailed from Liverpool to Australia in just 76 days, making her the fastest ship in the world. Previous voyages had taken 100 to 120 days. She sank in July of 1883, off Cavendish, P.E.I.