Thayer Knees Talk

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park


Hi folks! Welcome to the hold of the C.A. Thayer. Built originally in Fairhaven, California, and made almost entirely of Douglas-fir, Thayer sailed from the shipyards of H.D. Bendixsen in July of 1895, joining the Pacific Coast maritime trade as a sailing schooner for the lumber industry. Today, I want to share with you something that you can't see every day - Thayer's knees. Knees are a common form of bracing used in shipbuilding, so why I think Thayer's knees are noteworthy is because they aren't sawn or bent to shape but grown. Wood as a building material is not uniformly strong - it's strongest when the load is compressed along with the grain. So finding that natural long grain made for a stronger, sturdier knee. Now knees - grown knees - would have been taken from where that angulature is exhibited in trees, such as near the root systems of larger, mature trees or along larger, lower branches and their intersection with the trunk. What we have in the fore of the ship are white, painted knees. By the time Thayer was converted to a cod fishermen they would have put a temporary bulkhead to divide the hold, and the floor of the hold would have been used as sleeping quarters for the fishermen while the rest of the hold would have held up to 700,000 pounds of salted fish. It's quite the smell. The crew of the ship would have slept in a deckhouse in the forward part of the main deck, and the captain and his mates in a cabin in the stern of the ship. Every day we learn more about C.A. Thayer and our other historic vessels. I hope you'll come explore them with us at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Thanks for watching.


Park Ranger Anne Monk takes you below deck aboard the 1895 schooner C.A. Thayer for a look at the vessel's knees.


2 minutes, 8 seconds



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