The Idea

Although the original Golden Hinde was eventually defeated by rot and indifference, the 400th anniversary of her voyage inspired Albert Elledge, president of a San Francisco tugboat and harbour-tour line, and Art Blum, a publicist and Vice-President of San Francisco’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, to form The Golden Hinde Limited of San Francisco.

The Design

In 1968, they commissioned Californian naval architect Loring Christian Norgaard to design the ship. With a seafaring background and a lifelong passion for the history of sailing ships, Norgaard was the ideal candidate to research and prepare designs for the ship. The difficulty he faced was that no detailed record or design existed of Drake’s ship. He spent three years meticulously studying period manuscripts and historical evidence referring to the Golden Hinde and other 16th century ships. The plan for the reconstruction was seen as a milestone in the history of modern naval architecture. All components were handcrafted using traditional techniques and materials, from the 22 cannons to the furniture and the Hinde figurehead. Every element was carefully considered for authenticity even down to the small details such as the bottles of scented water Drake is known to have used.

The Build – Timbers

The timbers used in the original vessel would have been English oak, elm, and pine, and every attempt was made to use only these traditional materials when building the replica. The search for authenticity entailed numerous visits to estates and timber-yards throughout the country. Whilst elm for the keel timbers and pine for the deck planks and bulkheads were readily obtainable, grown oak of the size and quality necessary to make up the forty-foot half-frame timbers or ribs of the vessel was only found after several months of effort. Finding the fir for the masts – especially the mainmast - took longest of all. The forests of fir that covered many parts of England in the sixteenth century have shrunk to a fraction of their former size. The ship-building effort for the flotilla that engaged the Armada stripped acres of English forests. The shipwrights of that period had little trouble in finding standing trees that met the requirements for a mast, with no branches or blemishes for the first sixty or so feet. For the modern Golden Hinde, the tree for the main mast involved visits to estates the length and breadth of Britain before a suitable one was found on an estate in Devon.

The Build – Setting Up the Ribs

The keel was laid in September 1971, at the Hinks’s shipyard by J. Hinks & Son in Appledore, Devon, and the last rib was lifted on to the keel in March 1972. First, the main timbers that are bolted to the two ends of the keel to receive the ends of the planking, the stem section and the stem-post, were attached. Meanwhile, the sectional plans for the oak half frame, or ribs, were being prepared. This task is usually performed by a loftsman. The name is traditional and derives from mould-loft, the area where the plans of the various sections of the vessel are laid full-size, usually a platform above the main working area. Using the plan supplied, the loftsman starts by laying the outline of the frame full-size on a board, called the scrieve-board. Once the shape is laid, sectional offsets and patterns can then be drawn which are used by the shipwrights to select the right size and shape of timber from the materials in store. These are then sawn and prepared by hand to fit the pattern and returned to the mould-loft for assembling into the frame. Once assembled and bolted, the completed frame is ready to be lifted into place on top of the keel.

The Rigging

Specially prepared Italian hemp was used for the rigging of the Golden Hinde, in keeping with the period. Tradition finds its place here too. The ropes were spun by a Hull firm which had been making rigging since the eighteenth century, and the preparation of the ropes and the actual rigging was executed by two Appledore riggers, the Bennett brothers, who came out of retirement to prepare the rigging. After the preparation of all the standing rigging, the masts were dressed so that once the vessel was afloat, it was possible to drop in the masts and set them up immediately. The fitting out was completed by fastening off all the running rigging (halyards and sheets), using the same techniques and tools that have been used by riggers throughout the centuries.

The Launch

On 5 April 1973, The Golden Hinde was launched in a grand ceremony, attended by the Countess of Devon, as well as Albert Elledge and Art Blum, who flew over from America to join the celebrations. Once on the water, The Golden Hinde was ready for fitting out. With her masts, rigging, and sails fitted and having undergone sea-trials, she was finally complete and ready for her first adventure in 1974.

Captain and Crew

For its maiden voyages, The Golden Hinde was captained by Adrian Small, a forty-three- year-old sea-captain who lived in Brixham, Devon. Captain Small sailed in square-rigged sailing-ships from the age of sixteen, was Second Mate in the Mayflower replica and skippered the Nonsuch on her voyages round the south coast of England. On the voyage to San Francisco, estimated to take 142 days, Captain Small carried a crew of some fifteen to twenty, less than a quarter of the number carried by Drake. As with the shipbuilder and the skipper, most of the original crew were from Devon.