The Liverpool Telegraph of May 11th contains a very sensible and truthful article upon Mr. Cunningham's admirable invention. After alluding to the importance of reducing manual labour on board ship, the writer states that Mr. Cunningham recently took his beautiful little brigantine, the Alfred (which is rigged throughout on his plan), into George's Basin, for the purpose of exhibiting the working of his system of reefing. "A number of influential gentlemen conntected with shipping were present, who expressed themselves highly delighted with Mr. Cunningham's invention. His plan of reducing the area of the canvas by rolling the sail up on the yard (the yard being fitted to turn round on the fixtures for that purpose) is so generally known as not to require a description; but we cannot avoid noticing the beautifully mechanical principles, as exhibited on Saturday, which Mr. Cunningham has selected, or indeed discovered — for a discovery it is — to carry out his great object, and which may probably not be generally known. In his invention he employs the gravitation of the yard and its appendages to produce the necessary rotation of the yard by the action of the chain or halyards in the bight of which it is suspended, and which being hoisted upon or lowered (one end being a fixture) produces a rotation of the yard, thus constitution the operation a self-acting one. If Mr. Cunningham had not discovered this principle, the necessity of applying manual force to the rotation of the yard would have been a serious difficulty to the attainment of the desired object.
"We particularly noticed a most striking feature in the application of this invention. We allude to the arrangement of Mr. Cunningham's system of self-reefing to the working of the top-gallant sails in such a manner as to dispense with the use of royals, a feature which is well worthy of special notice. He employs, as shown on the 9th, a deeper topgallant sail for the purpose, which, although not containing the collective area of the top-gallant sail and royal together, by being carried up square at the head and entire in its area, gives a powerful propelling sail, and is as effective as the two sails on the old plan. This large sail can also in a moment be reduced to a close-reefed top-gallant sail of the smallest size, and the weight of the royal yard, with all its gear, is dispensed with.
"The ability to take in and make sail so easily and quickly cannot fail to afford the means of making quicker passages. Indeed, the fastest passages on record have lately been made by ships fitted with Mr. Cunningham's system. The ship Imogene, which made the remarkable passage of only forty-seven days from Algoa Bay to England, was so fitted. The captain stated that the shortness of the voyage was owing to his being able to keep sail on his ship to the last moment, and apply it again on the least fall of wind. The advantages of making quicker passages — of saving in wear and tear of canvas — of the ability to proceed to sea with fewer regular seamen, meeting the growing want we have mentioned above — and the saving of life by Mr. Cunningham's arrangement — are considerations that have had, and to a still greater extent we trust will have, that weight with shipowners that the wants of commerce require. We should observe, in conclusion, that Mr. Cunningham's system of reefing is now applied to all new ships throughout the kingdom, and in Liverpool, with a just appreciation of its merits, its adoption is extending, and we can only express a hope that this valuable invention may, as we believe it will, become at last universal."
Cunningham's Self-Reefing Sails.
Mechanic's Magazine, 1857. p 486.
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius.
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