One of the most fascinating aspects of Bounty, in terms of shipbuilding practices of the day, is that she was a merchant vessel not only converted into a 'floating greenhouse', but also refitted to meet the standards of the Royal Navy. Her refit took over three months to complete and cost more than her original purchase price. Refit and provisioning costs include £2504 spent on the hullj and £1952 spent on rigging and stores; with her purchase price of £1950 this gives a total of £6406.
The first alteration made was to sheath the ship with copper. When Bethia was acquired she was sheathed with wood to prevent sea worms from eating into her external planking. Although this was a very old practice it was not very successful; it involved coating the underwater area of a ship's hull with horse hair mixed in tar, then nailing planks over it. By 1778 it was standard policy to sheath all Navy vessels with copper and it is interesting to note that the merits of copper sheathing were first realized on ships returning from the South Seas. Coppering a ship's bottom was expensive, not so much for labour expended (a ship could be coppered surprisingly quickly), but because the cost of copper was high. The replacement of all iron hull fastenings by bronze, necessary because of the galvanic action between copper and iron, also added to the cost. To copper Bounty she would be beached broadside and careened over, her wood sheathing would then be removed, her iron fittings replaced with bronze ones, and she would then be sheathed with copper. She would then be refloated, turned around and the process would be repeated on the other side. After sheathing, a sole plate was stapled under her keel.
Bligh describes the conversion of Bounty's lower deck into a garden in his account:
The between decks was divided in the following manner: - the great cabin was appropriated for the preservation of plants, and extended as far forward as the after hatchway. It had two large sky-lights, and on each side three scuttles for air, and was fitted with a false floor cut full of holes to contain the garden-pots, in which the plants were to be brought home. The deck was covered with lead, and at the foremost corners of the cabin were fixed pipes to carry off the water that had drained from the plants into tubs placed below to save it for future use. I had a small cabin on one side to sleep in, adjoining to the great cabin, and a place near the middle of the ship to eat in. The bulk-head of this apartment was at the after part of the main hatchway, and on each side of it were the berths of the mates and midshipmen; between these berths the arms-chest was placed. The cabin of the master, in which he always kept the key of the arms, was opposite to mine . . .
The cabin arrangement described by Bligh shows very clearly on the draughty and the Navy Board went into great detail in showing the pot racks. Provision was made for a total of 629 pots, of which 433 were 6 inches in diameter and 196 8 inches. Some work on the pot racks was done by Bounty's crew, for on 15 November 1788 Bligh notes in the log, 'Carpenters still employed fixing additional stands for the plants in the cabin'. He also notes, 'Cooper making tubs and boxes' and that there were 774 pots, 39 tubs and 24 boxes.
Ventilation for the plants was considered to be important by the botanist, so two sets of gratings, which Bligh describes as 'sky-lights', were installed in the quarterdeck, one ahead of the mizzen mast and one aft of the wheel. To facilitate this addition a deck locker that sat just aft of the capstan was removed and carlings were added to support the coamings. The air scuttles referred to by Bligh were rectangular openings, roughly 5 inches by 12 inches, cut into the ship's side above the deck clamp. They were fitted with hinged lids which were caulked in poor weather and their location was governed by upper deck beams and lodging knees. The draught shows the foremost scuttle party behind a swivel stanchion.
Lining the cabin deck with lead, like copper sheathing, would have been expensive but was, however, necessary to conserve precious water. This, along with the other cabin changes, was done at the suggestion of Sir Joseph Banks. The berths for the Master's Mates and Midshipmen were merely canvas screens that hung from the deck above and as such do not appear on the draught. Further changes to Bounty's lower deck involved reducing the size of the after companion way and installing a companionway forward, arid removal of a Carpenter's and a Boatswain's cabin. A new Brodie stove was ordered and this was placed where the carpenter's cabin had stood. Support for the stove in the form of carlings would have been added in the lower deck and an opening for its chimney was cut and framed in the upper deck.
In addition to the gratings in the quarterdeck, changes were also made to Bounty's upper deck. The Admiralty had determined that the ship was to carry four 4-pounder guns and ten half-pounder swivels. To accommodate the carriage guns, ports were cut and framed in the bulwarks, the deck framing was almost certainly strengthened with added carlings, and rings were installed for gun tackles. For the swivels, five stanchions were placed on either side of the ship. On the forecastle, two small air scuttles were cut into the deck and the belfry was changed; Bethia's belfry consisted of two posts supporting an arched capital and cross bar, from which the bell hung. This fitting was removed and the bell was rehung on a metal hoop mounted on the windlass post. Aft, and here the draughts are somewhat ambiguous, it would seem that small round ports were cut into the companionway and main hatch coamings. Also on the coamings, boat chocks were placed on the aft sides of the fore companionway and main hatch, Bethia's boat was probably carried on her spare spars which were themselves carried on a crutch mounted above the fore brace bitts aft and over the windlass forward. To make room for Bounty's boats the spars were carried on the channels and the crutch was removed. The bitts were made slightly smaller and strengthened by adding two knees aft. Finally, a flag locker was installed between the rudder head housing and stern rail, and the timberheads adjacent to the catheads were lengthened.
Changes were also made in Bounty's hold, and here again the draughts are unclear. When Deptford Yard sent the draught of Bethia to the Navy Board the yard officers noted, . . the Sheer and Decks are agreeable to the Ship as purchased, with the several contrivances drawn in Red Ink, the Platforms afore and abaft, &c. in Green are proposed if it meets with your Approval'. Apparently the Navy Board returned Bounty's draught, showing their desired alterations, to the yard, and it is here that the confusion arises; I am uncertain whether the platforms were existing or merely proposed. Most probably the fore platform was in place and held the galley, storerooms and cabins, and the aft platform was at least in place, as there was a ladder leading to it, but not necessarily compartmented with cabins except for a bulkhead aft to form the breadroom. In any event, I have shown Bounty's hold plan as it was, and Bethia'$ hold plan as it may have been if cabins were placed on both platforms. The Inboard Profile of Bethia showing changes made in her hold is based on the assumption that fore and aft platforms and cabins were originally in place.
Oddly enough, Bethia's draughts do not show a hold well. This was a room formed by protective bulkheads that kept stowed items away from the base of the bilge pumps in case emergency access was required. The draught of Bounty shows a hold well in place and a shot locker just forward of it. In his account of the mutiny Bligh tells us of reducing Bounty's ballast:
The next material alteration made in the fitting out was lessening the quantity of iron and other ballast. I gave directions that only 19 tons of iron should be taken on board instead of the customary proportion, which was 45 tons. The stores and provisions I judged would be fully sufficient to answer the purpose of the remainder; for I am of the opinion that many of the misfortunes which attend ships in heavy storms of wind, are occasioned by too much dead weight in their bottoms.
Finally, before leaving Spithead, Bounty would have received a coat of paint and had her name painted on the counter.
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