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Get Involved > Blog > Small Cap Funding Supports Repairs to Critical Element of 1854 Sailing Vessel

Small Cap Funding Supports Repairs to Critical Element of 1854 Sailing Vessel

February 16 2017

For more than sixty years, USS Constellation has been an iconic fixture in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. As with any watercraft, and especially so with one constructed of wood, consistent maintenance is necessary to ensure the vessel endures for generations to come.

In 2014, Historic Ships in Baltimore received a BNHA small capital grant that supported the replacement of USS Constellation’s main yard. The main yard, mounted horizontally on the ship’s main mast, is 90-feet long and 24 inches in diameter at the center point. With all of the associated rigging, the main yard weighs in at more than 9,000 pounds.

The main yard would have supported the top edge of the ships main sail and the bottom corners of the main topsail. The main yard that was replaced dates to the 1960s and was made from a solid piece of lumber from a whole tree. The yard had been repaired so many times that it was potentially presenting a safety hazard to visitors.

The replacement is hollow, which has many advantages. It is lighter and stronger. It will not shrink, twist, or check like traditional timber, which will prevent water from invading the wood and lead to rot. The new main yard was installed in December 2015 and is expected to last at least 30 years.

“We’re very thankful for the heritage area grant,” said Chris Rowsom, executive director of Historic Ships in Baltimore. “Replacing the main yard was a critically important project that will help ensure the historic integrity of Constellation.”

The next grant cycle for the heritage area’s Small Capital Grants will open in fall 2017. Visit our grants page for more information on this grant program as well as our non-capital Heritage Investment and Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grants.

To learn more about how BNHA grants have helped preserve USS Constellation and the submarine Torsk, check out the video below. To find out how you can support these critical grant programs AND have fun this April, visit

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