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

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On turning in standing rigging in the winter.

Every officer who has had to fit out a vessel in this country during the winter season, must have experienced the difficulty of turning in rigging when once over the mast-head, with the usual weather at that time of the year, such as frost, snow, sleet, rain, piercing winds, and many other et ceteras. We have seen vessels turning in the rigging during this season of the year, when the men could hardly hold their marline-spikes for above a few minutes together, without beating their hands to endeavour to make them warm. When the rigging is turned in under the above circumstances, it will generally require turning in afresh, as soon as you can get fine warm weather for that purpose: the seizings take up so much with cold or wet, that they are sure to give out with warm weather. I am strongly of opinion, that the standing rigging, with very few exceptions, might be fitted in the rigging loft. If you take the angles of the masts for stays and shrouds, in the way in which you wish the mast to stand, and have the diameter of the shrouds, I cannot see the difficulty of turning the rigging in at the rigging loft, previous to putting it over the mast-heads. This would save much time, labour, and expense, and the rigging would be considerably more secure. If the rigging for the advanced ships were kept ready turned in, bowsprits gammoned, and secured from the weather, port pendants fitted, and tackles rove, it would be a great saving of time if these ships were required in great haste. To have the bowsprit rear gammoned, if a ship be required expeditiously, every seaman knows must be of the first consequence; in fact, nothing can be in its place on the fore-mast until this is done. You may get your fore-rigging over the mast-head, but nothing can be secured until the gammoning is finished. hen the Rodney fitted out Bellerophon in 1846, she would have been much sooner ready had the gammoning of the bowsprit not detained the fore-mast considerably. If an advanced ship is required to be ready quickly, it would be better if the carpenters could have the ports previously fitted to receive the guns, as every person not actually employed in preparing a ship for sea must, in some degree, be in the way of each other. While on this subject of turning in rigging, let me observe, that whenever you are anxious to turn in all your rigging afresh, and set it up quickly, the greatest difficulty you have, is in procuring seamen enough to get all your work in hand at the same time, for, though your crew may be that of a ship of the line, where your rigging bears no proportion to the number of men, still, I believe I am right in asserting, that you can seldom find seamen enough to undertake to turn in all your rigging well at the same time. The merchant docks have much curtailed our nursery for seamen, as the ships which generally sail out of London, Liverpool, Bristol, &c., are seldom fitted out by the men who take the ships from port to port; these men generally know very little of the seamanlike part of their duty, and really it is not their fault, for the moment the ship arrives near the docks, they are either sent on shore soon after the sails are furled, or immediately on the ship's arrival in the docks. Where there are docks, generally speaking, the seamen who rig the ships do not go to sea in them, therefore, this must have the effect of confining seamanship to a much smaller number of men. The best men for the Navy are those who have been brought up from boys in the Service. If an old hulk could be spared at each of the principal ports, with jury rigged masts, for the newly raised boys to be exercised in all the duties of a seaman, as this cannot well be done on board a stationary guard-ship (which must always be more or less a show-ship), where visitors, tar, and rigging, would not agree very well together. The exercise of guns and sails should each have its turn. Whenever the day of need comes, seamanship and gunnery must go hand in hand. If more attention could be given to instruct the boys in seamanship, it would be of the greatest consequence to the Navy.* The Army has its depôts to make soldiers, which seldom takes above a few months; but in the Navy, where it requires years to make a seaman, we have no precious teaching; for when youngsters go on board vessels of war, things are generally expected to be done too quickly, for them to have a fair opportunity of learning. The boys in the Navy should, in a great degree, be considered the rising generation of seamen for men-of-war, as those brought up in the Service are the most likely to continue in it. Allowing the opinion of the petty officers to have some weight in the rating of the younger part of the crew and boys, has the effect of raising the position of the petty officers in the eyes of the crew, and making those under them more attentive, and more anxious to learn. Suppose you have six or eight vacancies for seamen, and you wish to bring six or eight smart lads forward for topmen, or other ratings you wish to advance from ordinary to able; the day you muster the crew by the open list, let all the executive working petty officers attend on the opposite side of the deck to the officers, and as the crew pass, desire the petty officers of any part of the ship you may wish to give a vacancy to, to tell you conscientiously, which man or boy in his part of the ship, he considers the most deserving of being advanced from ordinary seaman to able, or from boy to ordinary seaman; and should any be found sufficiently active, and zealous, to do the duty of an able seaman, advance him at once to that rank, which cannot fail to have the best effect in stimulating others. I have seen that part relative to taking the opinion of the petty officers tried, and it answered very well.
* This article was written previously to present admirable arrangements of the Admiralty, for bringing up a fine set of boys as seamen for the Navy, by giving them every facility for acquiring a knowledge of seamanship, in all its branches &c. &c. [Back]
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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