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USS Constellation has holes in its hull, but they're just part of historic ship's restoration

The USS Constellation has a hole in its side with a beam sticking out of it but the ship’s current appearance is actually due to work being done to rehabilitate the historic ship. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun video)

The USS Constellation may look like it took a cannonball to the hull, but the ship's current appearance is actually due to work being done to rehabilitate the historic ship.

Planks along both sides of the bow of the ship are missing, with scaffolding surrounding one side and a beam protruding from the other.

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While some passersby have wondered if the ship suffered damage amid recent heavy winds, the gaping holes are just part of ongoing work to restore the sloop-of-war that dates to 1854, said Laura Givens, director of promotions and special events for Historic Ships in Baltimore, the nonprofit responsible for the vessel.

The planks were damaged by water and through normal wear and tear, said Christopher Rowsom, executive director of Historic Ships. Douglas fir timbers were used to replace those planks in the 1990s but that type of wood is more prone to rotting than hardwoods used in structural framework of the ship.

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"Fresh water from rain, snow and ice is the worst enemy of a wooden ship," Rowsom said in an e-mail.

Crews will likely replace the Douglas fir planks with ipe wood, he said. The work should be finished by early summer.

The Constellation, which is a National Historic Landmark, spent four months last fall and winter being repaired at a dry dock in Curtis Bay. Though the ship has been back in the water since February 2015, restoration work continues, Givens said.

"The putting-back-together, so to speak, is under way," she said.

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