While at sea, Cutty Sark’s crew needed to constantly maintain and repair the ship to ensure it stayed safe and afloat.

Even though it no longer sails, ongoing care is still needed to make sure the 154-year-old ship survives for us all to enjoy.

Every day, our team of shipkeepers chip, paint, polish and repair all parts of the ship. They also carefully monitor its condition, looking for any changes. If you've visited before, you may well have spotted them in action.

Shipkeepers work to reattach the figurehead to historic ship Cutty Sark

What do Cutty Sark's shipkeepers do?

Cutty Sark is made from many different materials – such as teak wood, rock elm wood, iron and brass – which all need different methods of care. In part this care is needed to make the ship look good, but more importantly it ensures that serious damage is avoided or repaired.

Much of the ship’s maintenance is planned on a yearly cycle. Cutty Sark is exposed to the elements which affects its components differently depending on the material. For example, the wood can shrink or expand due to external temperature changes. This can mean cracks or even leaks.

Some jobs – such as polishing the brassworks – start again almost as soon as they have finished. Other jobs happen less frequently and arise from a pressing need.

The ship's wheel of Cutty Sark in Greenwich

What's happening now?

The poop deck (pictured) – the raised area at the stern, or back, of the ship – needs new planks to make sure everything below it remains dry.

Our team of shipkeepers, working with specialists TS Rigging, will spend the next few months replacing the current deck using traditional techniques.

They are using a wood called ‘iroko’, which has similar properties to the original teak. Teak is a high quality and durable wood, but it is now very difficult to ethically and sustainably source.

Fibres of hemp rope, known as oakum, will be driven into the gaps between planks using caulking tools. The video below shows this work in action, in a clip taken from 1954 when Cutty Sark first arrived in Greenwich.

Pitch, a tar-like substance made from pine wood, will then be used to seal the joins.

While this takes place, the poop deck will not be accessible for visitors, but we will be providing updates on progress both online and on site.

Bear with us; it won’t be long before Cutty Sark is ship-shape again.

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