A Letter from Geo. H. Bradbury to R.B. Forbes, 1855.

New-York, Aug. 6, '55.

R.B. Forbes, Esq.

Dear Sir:-- Yours of the 2d, touching the comparative merits of the Howe's and Forbes' rig, and asking for the result of my experience with both, is received. In answer, I will state as briefly as possible my reasons for preferring the Howe's rig to yours, or rather to the rig of the Lantao, which is the nearest approach to your rig of which I am able to form an opinion.

In your rig, although you might not be obliged to "douse your lower topsails in a squall, your two yards cannot be brought nearer than about three feet from each other, and the upper topsail cannot be stilled, unless by clewing up, which is not a light job. By Howe's rig, you can bring the two yards close together, whereby the sail is completely becalmed, and neither flaps nor chafes; and, I think, in a short squall, it matters little whether you are under double or single reefed topsails; and if the squall is of any length, the upper topsails of Howe's rig are easily reefed and set over the close-reefed lower sails. men differ greatly in their treatment of squalls. I always treat them as heavy, and almost always clewed up the Lantao's upper topsails when threatened by a squall, in order to have the lower sails under control. The two chief advantages in Howe's rig are, that the sheets of the upper topsails are never started, and that the lower topsail is always set. By this rig, although the squall has all the appearance of bringing the ship to close-reefs, you can carry sail equal to whole topsails, knowing that in three seconds you can reduce to close-reefs, and in five minutes you can furl your upper topsail; although, as you observe, it is rarely necessary to "douse" your lower topsails. I have always felt safest when in a position to do so, and which can only be done, in your rig, by clewing up the upper topsails. The upper topsails of Howe's rig, although larger, are much more easily furled than in your rig -- we have only to knot the first stops on the yard (the sheets being fast) and the sail is snug; whereas, your upper topsail must be bunted -- always a tedious process, especially when the sail is wet. I have always found that the most difficult process, requiring the most men, was close reefing, particularly when running free; although not often done in Indiamen, yet it is sometimes necessary. Squalls that bring a ship to close-reefs are not rare in the China Sea, from May to January; and between Madagascar and the limits of the S.E. trade, N.W. of the Cape of Good Hope, it has been my lot to experience as many and as severe squalls as in any part of the world, also between the West Indies and the coast of America. During nine months of the year, the weather is such as to make Howe's rig desirable. One of the disadvantages of your rig is, that it has six yards, which hoist and lower, instead of three, as in Howe's rig; and although your upper yard is lighter than his, your lower one is necessarily heavier, and with the booms on it, (not used in Howe's) hoists very heavy, especially when braced up.

Any one who has commanded a ship, with your rig, will readily admit these objections. Again, I think that the one studding-sail of Howe's rig, as in the old rig, is infinitely preferable to the two sails of your rig; the advantages of their being light are nothing compared to the trouble and expense of a set of tacks, halyards, and booms.

I have never experienced the slightest trouble with the one studding-sail to the two topsails, in Howe's rig.

You say that one of your objections to the Howe's standing-topsail is, that it will not sheet home when new. I think this is a very trifling objection, and one that applies to all courses, which are necessarily cut shoaler to allow for stretching to their proper size and place.

Another of your objections is, that an unequal strain is brought on the leeches of Howe's topsail, when braced up. To obviate this, I had my lifts fitted to be slacked or hauled at pleasure; and as I never kept a strain on them in light weather, I never had any trouble from taut leeches. The lifts ought to be fitted precisely like lower lifts of old rig.

In your rig, the courses and topgallant-sails are shoaler than in the old rig, and consequently more easily managed; but there is no reason why the courses and topgallant-sails of Howe's rig may not be of same proportions.

Howe's present upper topsail may be one-half larger than it now is, and be taken care of easily as long as you do not start the sheets. With your original rig, the top-masts fidded abaft, they can be housed more easily than in the other rigs. But in Howe's rig, with the topsail-yard supported from the top, instead of from the heel of topmast, you can send don the topmast, and carry close-reefed topsail as long as the canvas will stand.

I do not think that the want of symmetry is an objection to Howe's rig; most ships of that rig, when seen at sea, are reported as your rig; in fact, with ordinary taste, either of the rigs can be made to look as well as the old, unless the top-masts are abaft, which, I think, you will admit, disfigures a ship very much; still I would not consider the looks as an objection, if the ship can be handled easier, safer, and cheaper, than with another rig.

I may as well add, that I think the Howe's rig as safe and as strong as any in use; at any rate sail can be carried until it blows away, without the support to caps and mastheads.

I am very truly,

Geo. H. Bradbury, of ship N.B. Palmer.

The U.S. Nautical Magazine, Vol. III (1855-56), pp 32-33.
The following note came to hand too late for our last number.

Buxton, Maine, Sept. 22.

R.M. Forbes, Esq.

Dear Sir, -- In looking over the copy of the letter I wrote you, I find a slight error: In page 2 of the copy, line 14, "We have only to knot the first stops on the yard"; this should read, "We have only to knot the foot-stops over the yard. Will you oblige me by correcting the same, if it is not too late.

Yours, very truly,

Geo. H. Bradbury.

The U.S. Nautical Magazine, Vol. III (1855-56), p 144.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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