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

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Taking in square-sails by the wind.

I have continually tried, with weather and lee clewlines, in taking in square-sails when blowing hard, and for several years felt confident there was nothing like taking in a sail by the weather clew; however, I found this method liable to several objections; in the first place, you are more likely to get the sail over the lee yard-arm; secondly, if your weather brace should be carried away in taking in a topsail, your lee rigging would be much endangered. In hauling the lee clewline up first, you have rather a heavier, but a more steady strain, than when you haul the weather clew up first; with the weather clew, the sail is kept longer shaking, and jerks more, in consequence of which, you try the yard, block-strops, and braces more. I have often tried manning all the gear together, then keeping the ship a few points off the wind, and when everything was quite ready, run all the gear quickly up together. I found this plan answer very well, but you cannot do it without plenty of hands. By this way of taking in a sail, every part of gear its proper strain; at the same time the sail is less exposed to the wind, from being taken in, in less than half the time that you can possibly do it by taking in one clew at a time, and I am inclined to think, with less risk to sail and rope. As hauling up the lee or weather clew of a sail first, is a point on which many of our best seamen differ, I have, therefore, only stated the result of my own humble experience on this point.

NOTE.-- In writing the other day to one of our first-rate seamen (a captain in the Navy whom I had served under), to ask him if he would kindly give me his reasons for generally taking in a square-sail by the wind when blowing hard, by hauling the lee-clew of the sail up first. His answer I give exactly as I receive it.-- "Let me first presume, in answer to your queries, that the lee-sheet and weather-brace command all square-sails. By easing off the lee-sheet, the sail is neutralized, spilled, and rendered more manageable; likewise the weather-brace is relieved of the strain, which is not the case with the lee-sheet kept fast, and tack let go. In taking in a topsail, I therefore ease off the lee-sheet so far as not to shake the sail, and haul up the lee-clewline and buntline; then, ease off the weather-sheet, and clew all up, attending to the weather-brace to humour the sail; by this means, the sail is taken in scarcely a shake, and the lee-clewline and buntline being well up before the weather-sheet is started, keep the sail more to windward, and as far as possible prevent it from being blown through the buntlines, which invariably happens if the weather-clewline and buntline are hauled up first. I take a course in, in the same way; if the topsail is set over the course, you have not such a command over the weather-brace lest the topsail should be brought aback; but the lee-clew being well up, and a good hold of the sail with the lee-buntline and leech-lines, ease away the tack, and haul up together. If the topsail is not set, humour the sail with the weather-brace, as in the case of topsail, or top-gallant sail. It is always reckoned bad seamanship, in a gale, to start a tack with the lee-sheet hauled aft. I saw a line-of-battle ship's main-yard spring, from the main-tack giving way when under main-yard sprung, from the main-tack giving way when under reefed courses. I presume the same thing would have happened, had it been let go. It has always been an object with me, to have the sail manageable after it is clewed up, as well as the safety of the canvass in clewing up. You must often have seen the trouble and annoyance in furling a wet main-sail that has been allowed to blow through the buntlines. In hauling up the weather-clew first up, without easing the lee-sheet, the whole pressure of the wind is still on the sail, and nothing can be done with the weather-brace, until the sheet is eased off, and the mischief of the sail being blown to pieces has taken place."

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.