SALEM — A series of repairs to the Friendship will be completed this month, but National Park Service staff say work on the three-masted ship will stretch to infinity.
It’s the nature of the beast for a wooden vessel like Friendship, said Jeremy Bumagin, chief of the marine division at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
Friendship, the icon of Salem’s Derby Wharf, is a replica of an 1797 “East Indiaman” merchant vessel.
Park staff will always be doing piecemeal repairs, Bumagin said, checking for deterioration and replacing portions of wood. Through the summer, they’ll focus on reworking the bulwark — the railing-type structure around the deck.
“We have to be unbelievably proactive with finding water infiltration,” said Bumagin, who has worked on the Friendship since 1998.
“... These are the repairs that never end,” he said, gesturing to a Friendship staffer who was removing bits of wood from the bulwark Thursday.
A series of repairs by contractor F.J. Dion will finish this month, said Bumagin. The Salem company worked August through February, and again this month, removing and replacing wood from the ship’s hull and frames.
Dion’s work replaced 5 to 10 percent of the hull, most of it original, 15-year-old wood, said Bumagin.
Last week, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site hosted a program for the public highlighting the recent repairs. Established in 1938, the site is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
The Friendship went to a shipyard in Fairhaven for a six-month “haul out” for repairs in 2012.
The Friendship will leave for another haul out in November 2014, Bumagin said. Before and after the haul out, the ship will have a major “down rigging,” said Bumagin, when the masts are removed for repair.
The National Park Service will keep the Friendship docked until “a repair of unknown scope” below the water line can be addressed in the 2014 haul out, Bumagin said. While the problem is not getting any worse, it’s impossible to know its extent while Friendship sits in the water.