When our forefathers yacht, Mahaki, was built by Arch Logan in Auckland New Zealand in 1895, it is likely the shipwright worked with the local blacksmith to make the traditional simple blocks she uses.
Simple, in that here are only three main components to a traditional sailboat block; the binding frame and sheave axle, made of steel, or more likely, forged iron, the sheave, made of wood - probably lignum vitae (or bronze), and the body, also of wood, often teak.
While yacht racing was popular (the graceful lines of Mahaki, make it look as if it cutting a fine rate of knots, even when calmly cruising), gentlemen yachtsmen dressed properly to go cruising on the summer sun-sparkled waters of Auckland Harbour. For such cruising, not much was asked of the blocks and the other deck gear. As long as the sheave spindle or axle was clean and properly lubricated, the natural coir ropes would run freely enough to give her sails (jib, gaff main and topsail) the set to drive her cleanly through the blue-green waters.
|Davey and Company Ash Block with Stainless Frame, Tufnol Sheave, Plain Bearing and Becket|
When Mahaki was overhauled in recent years, the blocks were lovingly restored to their former glory. However, when restoring your traditional or classic sailboat which either has blocks missing or beyond repair, there are brand new ones available that are close to visually indistinguishable from the originals. The world-renowned Davey and Company range includes faithful replica blocks, having either Ash or Teak bodies, with plain bearings, and a new range, with a modern twist, having both roller bearings and bronze sheaves plus they all have a stainless steel frame to significantly reduce maintenance. Recognising the high historic, inherent and monetary value of such craft, these have also declared force/load capacities to ensure the block will handle the expected loads.
If you should choose one of these blocks, they will still need regular maintenance for both operation and appearance. The Ash blocks require periodic refinishing and we have a range of suitable products shown along side the blocks. The teak-bodied ones, simply need a fresh coat of teak oil and a range of products from brands like Star brite® Teak Wonder and Deks.
For those few readers who have the good fortune to be caring for an exclusive classic - we are talking Fifes, J-Class and similar here, there are more elaborate traditional blocks available that are also beautiful objects in their own right. When we visited the METS Marine Trades Exhibition, we came across such a range of blocks made by Ording Blockmakers. This family-owned business has been making blocks for many years and their latest offerings are beautiful to look at - beyond their intended use, some would make wonderful special gifts.
Now, we didn't enquire of the prices of the Ording blocks, which may well be be above the affordable prices of the Davey blocks but it serves to demonstrate, that even in such a small corner of our boating world, there is something to both recreate the beauty of a classic yacht and at a price to suit your pocket.