Happy 2017!

Every year, we review the progress that USS Constitution’s restoration team has made. Take a look at our Year in Review: 2015 to see how far we’ve come!

Constitution continues with her first dry docking of the 21st century. In 2016, “Old Ironsides‘” ongoing work included the installation of more new hull planks, significant rebuilding of the cutwater and the stern, overhauling, repairing and replacing parts of her rigging, and welcoming new mouses on board. The new protective coat of copper sheathing was signed, punched and placed on the port side of the hull; the starboard side copper will be completed in 2017.

If you want to stay up-to-date on the latest news about Constitution’s final year of the 2015 – 2017 restoration, subscribe to the Restoration Blog and take a look at “Old Ironsides” in dry dock with our real-time photo feed on ConstitutionCam!

To celebrate the completion of this full year in dry dock, enjoy the following photographs that capture significant moments of the restoration in 2016:


Repairs to Constitution’s upper stern planking began in late 2015 and continued throughout 2016. Here a rotten plank has been removed and a new laminated white oak plank is being inserted, temporarily held in place with oak strong back braces. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


The finishing touches to Constitution’s stern, late in 2016. Ship Restorer Bruce Comeau refurbished the stars and architectural pilasters that adorn the back of the ship. This decorative style to Constitution’s stern dates from the late 19th century. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]



Nearly every new hull plank has a lightweight plywood pattern constructed so that the new plank is cut and fitted exactly for the slot available. Note the handwritten notations in red on this new plywood pattern, indicating how much bend should be put into the new plank when it is steamed and bent in the steam house. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


A starboard bow plank is being carefully fitted into place. The oak strong backs hold the curved head of the plank in place, while the rest of the plank has yet to be fitted into its awaiting slot. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


The replacement of significant sections of Constitution’s cutwater was a several months’ project. Patterns were made from the rotten pieces removed from the cutwater. Here, Ship Restorer David Cavanaugh carefully planes a new laminated white oak piece so it will blend with the rest of the bow structure. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


Two large inner pieces of live oak and two very large pieces of laminated white oak make up the rebuilt sections of the ship’s cutwater. Long iron straps were then fitted into the new sections and through-bolted to help hold the massive cutwater together. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


The new pieces of the cutwater will be hidden behind the structure being built to support the decorative trailboards that grace Constitution’s bow. Here the oak framework of the trailboards’ understructure is being fitted over the cutwater. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]



Constitution’s standing rigging, which supports the masts, has received several new mouses. Each mouse consists of many built-up layers of line, canvas fabric and canvas tape. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


The outer cover of the mouse is an intricate basket-weave of line, protecting the built-up layers in the center. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


A finished mouse, showing how it helps to hold and support the leather-covered eye-spliced collar for one of the mast’s stays. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


In the autumn of 2016, Constitution’s main top (background) and main topgallant (foreground) yards came into the Detachment Boston’s shop for repairs and repainting. The main top yard is 71 feet long and weighs 1,020 pounds and the main topgallant is 46 feet long and weighs 240 pounds. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


The new leather chafe collar on the inside of the sling of the main top yard is held in place with copper nails. The leather chaffing gear prevents the yard from damaging the main top mast. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


Each haul block (left), which supports Constitution at the turn of her bilge, below the waterline, has to be individually moved so that the old copper, felt underlay, and hull plank caulking can be removed and replaced. The newly caulked seams can be seen with their red waterproof compound and the newly applied roofing felt. New sheets of copper will soon cover this section of the lower hull. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


Two hundred years ago, woolen felt was used as the underlay for Constitution’s copper sheathing. Today, Roofmaster sheathing felt is used to help protect “Old Ironsides'” lower hull. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


There are six haul blocks on each side of the ship’s hull to support it in dry dock. Here, the third haul block aft on Constitution’s port side in the process of being pulled back into place after the caulking, felt, and copper sheets have been replaced. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


Ship Restorer Anita Petricone uses a metal guide to pre-drill the holes on the edge of a copper sheet. Each copper sheet is either pre-punched in the Detachment Boston production shop or in place on the ship. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]


This snowy scene, taken on April 4, 2016 by Constitution Cam, belies the fact that the winter was rather mild, in comparison to the record-setting 100 inches of snow in the winter of 2015! [Courtesy USS Constitution Museum. Photo by Greg M. Cooper Photography.]

In these final months of USS Constitution‘s dry docking, we will continue to highlight the important stories of the restoration. Check back often for the latest stories.


The activity that is the subject of this blog article has been financed in part with Federal funds from the National Maritime Heritage Grant program, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, through the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin, Chairman. However, the contents and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior, or the Massachusetts Historical Commission, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Department of the Interior, or the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

The Author(s)

Margherita M. Desy
Historian, Naval History & Heritage Command

Margherita M. Desy is the Historian for USS Constitution at Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment Boston.

Phaedra Scott
Content Developer, USS Constitution Museum

Phaedra Scott was the Content Developer at the USS Constitution Museum from 2016 to 2017.