Captain Howe's rig for close-reefing topsails, differs from the common rig, by
having double topsail yards. The lower topsail yard is trussed to the lower
cap, and instead of slings, is supported from below by a crane upon the
forward rim of the top.
The yard now is entirely suspended to the cap. The lower topsail, therefore, is the size of the close-reefed sail of the ordinary rig, and sets entirely by the sheets. The upper topsail sets upon the part of the topmast above the cap, and has its foot laced to a jackstay upon the fore-cant of the yard below, so that no wind can escape between the "two topsails". This arrangement of the yards has many advantages. Labour and time are saved in reefing; a ship can be reduced to close-reefed topsails at any time, by lowering the upper topsails, which will then lie becalmed before the lower topsails, remaining perfectly quiet in the roughest weather, and can be furled or not.
In squally weather, then, this rig is invaluable, for whole topsails can be carried to the last moment, and instantly reduced to close-reefed topsails with certainly of action, without the necessity of a man leaving the deck. Its economy in the wear of canvass must also be very great, for the sails are of manageable size, and have neither bunt-lines, reef-tackles, or clue-lines to chafe them.
Any ship with the ordinary rig can adopt the new, by a yard to the cap and
cutting the topsails in two; and, if thought proper, enlarge the breadth of
the head, so as to spread more canvass on the same length of yards, as there
is no room required for reefing outside the brace bands: the reef tackles and
blocks will make the braces for the yard at the cap.
It may be observed that in the ordinary rig the trestle-trees are never relieved from the continual heavy pressure of the weight above, until the topsail-yard is on the cap, and they are frequently found defective from this cause alone. In Howe's rig much relief is given by the half-sail and light upper yard at the topmast head; and when both the two topsails are set, if the topsail haulyards are let go, the weight of the upper topsail is no longer resting upon the trestle-trees, as is the case in the old rig.
Again, should a ship lose her three topmasts on a lee shore, blowing hard, by cutting under the lower topsails and courses, which she would have no chance to do under the old rig, especially in cold weather with a Lascar crew, or shorthanded, as many vessels are now sometimes obliged to leave the Colonial ports to sail round Cape Horn.
A ship with this rig is more seaworthy, because she may always be considered as under close-reefed topsails, and may be worked with fewer men than a vessel of the same size having the old rig. It looks rather clumsy in port, and this, we believe, is the principal objection urged against it by those who do not comprehend its advantages at sea. Ships, however, are rigged for service at sea, and not for show in port; that, therefore, which is the most serviceable is certainly the best.
Transcribed by by Lars Bruzelius.
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Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.