Francis Liardet: Professional Recollections on Points of Seamanship, Discipline, &c., 1849.

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Having show-poles above the royal rigging.

The top-gallant and royal masts are mostly supplied from the Dock-yards, made out of one spar, and with very little mast-head above the royal rigging. Though these masts, everything considered, are allowed to be the very best masts for general service, still, in some ships it is the fashion to have several feet of show-mast above the royal rigging, thereby making these masts unhandy for shifting, and much more liable to be carried away; and from its being contrary to the Dock-yard establishment to supply them, officers who admire these long show-poles, are obliged to have recourse to many expedients to obtain them; but when spars cannot be procured for making such masts, the last resource is generally to scarph and hoop poles on to the royal masts, which not only adds to their weight at such a long lever, but the masts are seldom so strong as before they were scarphed, still they have to bear the additional weight of poles. When so much weight is placed above the royal rigging, it is quite impossible that the royals or top-gallant sails can be carried so long as if the trucks were close down to the royal rigging, or nearly so. Though six or seven feet of show-mast may perhaps look little or nothing on deck, still, when perched so high above the royal rigging, and without any support, every pound of unnecessary weight, and every square-inch of resistance they offer to the wind, must be of consequence; and if you attempt to support these masts with stays and backstays, they hold much wind, give endless trouble, and expend all your sea store of small rope, besides the useless expense. Officers who have been accustomed to use stump top-gallant masts on bad weather stations, will have found how much longer top-gallant sails can be carried by having the weight of the royal mast off when carrying sail in a breeze. If this hold good with the weight and pressure being taken off the top-gallant mast, it must hold good in a greater degree with the poles above the royal rigging from their increased height, and consequent increased difficulty of supporting them, if supported at all. If any plan could be introduced that would make a ship's hull, masts and rigging, offer less resistance to the wind when sailing close hauled, it would accelerate her much in working to windward. This being admitted, even every unnecessary rope that holds wind in a strong breeze must be, in a measure, against the ship. If a ship's rigging, by any improvement in rope-making, could be made much smaller, yet equally strong, it would not only offer less resistance to the wind, but in a breeze, or whenever the ship lies over, the mast would be relieved of weight in proportion to the diminished size of the rigging; the weight of the lee rigging no doubt has often decided the fate of a mast. It was no uncommon thing formerly, when carrying sail by the wind, to see the upper masts relieved of much of the weight of their backstays, by having a burton hooked to each lower mast-head; strops were then passed round all the lee-backstays on each mast, and the burtons boused gently taut; by this, the upper masts were relieved of the weight of their rigging nearly the whole length of the lower masts, which is by far the heaviest part of the rigging in proportion to its length. as the dead eyes, laniards, &c., are there. When ships have been chasing, or trying rate of sailing, much advantage has been found in shipping all the weather ports, lowering the quarter-boats down square with the vessel's hull, and all unnecessary things taken out of the rigging, &c. In a flush vessel, the stern and lee ports had better be unshipped, more particularly if she has a poop, as it will allow the wind from the courses to escape.
Francis Liardet: Professional Recollections on Points of Seamanship, Discipline, &c.
William Woodward, Portsea, 1849. 8vo, frontisp., (6), x, 319 pp, 1 col. plate of signals.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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Copyright © 1998 Lars Bruzelius.