Pirate Ship Ship Construction

This page attempts to do justice to the effort required to build this monster. As will be seen, it was mostly inspiration and little design. I look at this as one of those "artistic releases" in life that allowed me to utilize all of the abilities that the good Lord gave me, and the skills that I have developed over the years.


Believe it or not, these two drawings comprise the entire design effort for The Pirate Ship project. I made some guesstimates as to lengths (which fortunately were way over!). The concept moved from shipwreck to a ship sunken at some point during construction. The rear mast was added and the design of the bow mast (from which the tire swing hangs) was dramatically altered. The whole thing was planned around the sandbox which was the first item in our playground, pre-dating the ship by at least six years. Note the tree to the left of the bow. I knew exactly where this baby was going and could envision it from the get-go.

Of course, the entire project was built to family standards: Nail it, glue it, and screw it. It'll stay. That's a bit of a stretch, but not much. If this thing ever needs to be removed, they will need heavy equipment. The main supports are in 3-4 bags of crete, four feet deep (to beat the frost), and the wood is, of course, treated for long life.

This shot show early construction efforts. The shell of the crows nest is complete, the vertical supports are all set, and the final implementation of the bow mast has been completed. It's hard to see, but the vertical supports for the bow are slanted outward so that a realistic slope shaped bow could be afforded to the final product. I could have actually slanted these more, but I was making this up as I went along and they were set in concrete!

The final bow mast design was sturdy enough to hold me, bouncing, at the very end. As was the case for all other portions of the construction, the rule was: If it holds me, it's safe for the kids - and no sooner. Since this is a giant lever, my initial efforts fell woefully short of demand. This design uses a 6x6 for the upright and mast. A 4x6 crosses the end of the mast and is notched and bolted into the two front vertical supports. The holes in which the supports reside were filled with concrete well in excess of any reasonable load at the other end.

Next is a shot from the deck after the sides of the crows nest were attached, the front decking and ladder were completed, and the back decking framed in. A few new components had to be invented just prior to this picture. The crows nest turned out to be much heavier than I had anticipated and was causing its 6x6 to sway. So I used the four angle supports you see to transfer some of the load to the middle vertical supports. That pretty much cured side-to-side, and the overbuilt ladder prevents the forward motion. However, there was nothing to prevent backward motion and it was still too shaky for my liking. That's when the idea to use a transfer beam to the sail mast as a monkey bar came to mind. It was the perfect addition and was functional at the same time!

Here's a shot of the ship after phase I had been completed. The frost is evident on the grass in the background. I got to this point none too soon. It snowed the next week as I recall. The planks on the sides were left over from the fence that you see which was built about five years prior to the ship. I had guessed how far they would bend before snapping. It worked out with only a few snapping that already had cracks. The gang plank serves as a universal access point and the chain bridge is wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair if desired. The drooping ropes really add a nice period feel to the display and my daughter uses them when she "walks [up] the plank". The ship stayed like this for about 1.5 years.


In the summer of 2000, I finally got the urge, energy, and time to work on the ship again. I had visited the local yacht club in the spring and managed to scrounge a used sail. I utilized the Internet to find manufacturers of playground equipment and obtained the tire swing equipment (which no one sells locally for some reason - not even cheapy stuff). I added safety handles and strips, moved the slide to the bow, assembled the tire swing, added the glider that travels down the back side, and made up the sail mast as I went along. Note the ropes that hold the upper mast in place. I figured that that was the way they used to do it in the day and that I could easily replicate the task. Alright, the rope is just for show. It covers the two 1/2" galvanized bolt, washer, nut combinations that assure the safety of all who come to play.

One of my brothers got us a skull-and-crossbones flag for Christmas. That was the crowning touch that I put up in the spring of 2001 (the year after the photo above was taken). It just completes the whole look. All of this effort and we're moving?! I feel sick.