Shipwright Brian Johnson driving a new beam section under the wheelhouse.

Shipwright Brian Johnson driving a new beam section under the wheelhouse.

Keeping any wooden boat watertight against the rain is an essential and ongoing task. This is particularly true for the historic tugboat Arthur Foss. “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” is a multi-year Northwest Seaport preservation project of the vessel’s decks funded by 4Culture, the cultural services agency for King County.

Brian Johnson working on tug deck June 2013

Laying up a batten to fair up the curve along the edge of the boatdeck.

Even when Arthur Foss was new, it took maintenance by the whole crew to keep the decks and deckhouse watertight. At 124 years old, rot damage from rainwater leaks has made it necessary to replace planks and timbers. Seattle’s wet climate is harsh on the Douglas fir decks and house. While the cold freshwater of Lake Union is beneficial for the boat’s lower hull, rainwater and air on the upperworks feeds rot fungi. It is very important to stop rainwater leaks before rot spreads. Rot damage to important structural timbers and high-traffic areas requires extensive repair. This was the case with the starboard edge of the boat deck.


Brian Johnson Jeanette Hayman and Saxon Bisbee working on tug

Brian Johnson, volunteer nautical archaeologist Jeanette Hayman and nautical archaeologist-in-residence participant Saxon Bisbee tacking down the last piece of canvas on the boat deck.

Beginning in late May 2013, two nautical archaeologists and a professional shipwright began removing the badly deteriorated wood from the edge of the boat deck on Arthur Foss. This involved removing the rails, coverboards, canvas, plywood, and tar paper layers for access to the actual deck planks. Several planks along the edge had to be replaced. Then the new planks are fitted and fastened. New plywood and canvas are then put on and the railing re-fitted. This repaired area will last at least another 100 years if properly maintained.

All work performed on the Arthur Foss has direct public benefit to all visitors at Lake Union Park. The tug occupies a prominent position on the Historic Ships Wharf, with her bow facing towards a row of shaded benches often occupied by visitors. During restoration, staff, volunteers, shipwrights and nautical archaeologists engage the public and address their questions. Often, a visitor will find themselves with a tool in their hand to help in the restoration project.

New boat deck cover boards are down June 24, 2013

New boat deck cover boards are down June 24, 2013

If you are interested in contributing to the restoration, or for more information, please use contact form to express your interest.


One thought on ““WHO’LL STOP THE RAIN?” Project

  1. Chuck Keith

    Good job! I would like to build my own 1/30 scale model of Arthur Foss to operate @ local (Indianapolis,In) Admiral’s Model Boat activities. NW Seaport says they don’t have staff to supply plans of the exterior to help me. Can ANY part of the Foss crew of help me find plans? The Foss history is so well documented on the web there must be plans of the tug. Please contact: Chuck Keith chuckandjanekeith@comcast.net if someone has a lead. Thanks!!


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