Before embarking, each vessel was stripped of all unnecessary items. A hole was bored below the ship's water line into which was fitted a lead pipe and a plug arrangement. This device would readily let in water once the ship was ready for sinking. Local farmers dismantled their stone walls and hauled tons of rock to docks for loading the refitted whaling ships. A small crew, including many former whalemen, sailed each haphazardly loaded vessel down the Eastern coast of the United States. This aptly named "Stone Fleet" headed for its own destruction.
For seasoned whalemen this trip was far different than what they were used to. Since the government was outfitting the vessels for the trip, ship owners did not have to skimp on food. There was plenty to eat and discipline was fairly lax. Unlike the grueling work of the whale hunt, there was little to do but avoid sinking or colliding with another vessel. Considering the sloppy re-fitting work and the careless way the stone had been stowed in the ships, steering might not have been as easy as it sounds. Without the skilled handling of former whalemen, many of those broken down, poorly balanced vessels might have sunk long before they ever reached their destination.
New Bedford Whaling Museum