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

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On trimming the sails.

All sails should be trimmed to stand as taut as possible. The more a sail can be made a flat surface either by or before the wind, the better: the notion that there should be a reef of slack sail to let out when the ship is sailing large, is, I believe, entirely exploded. It is also necessary the sails should be balanced fore-and-aft, that the helm may be carried as nearly in midships as possible. If a ship carry a large proportion of weather-helm, and has all her head-sail set with a side wind -- decreasing the after-sail until the ship carries a few spokes of weather-helm will tend to increase her velocity. When the wind is abaft the beam, the lower and fore-topmast studding sails are the best sails standing so far out from the ship, and act with a length of lever to pay off the ship's head. Few things will impede a ship's steerage more than weights in her extremes. I was first lieutenant of a ship that stayed and worked well on all occasions except a very short time, when she frequently refused stays, and fell off in her sailing; this led to a thorough examination of every part of the ship, to see where the fault could be. The ship's bottom was examined; the setting of the sails particularly attended to, staying of the masts looked at, stowage of the hold, &c., but all to no purpose; however, before the week was out, we were having a thorough examination of all the case-shot, when to my astonishment I found the gunner getting boxes of case-shot out of his store-room; this unravelled the whole affair of the ship working badly, &c. Previous to this, all the spare case-shot had been cleated in midships on the lower-deck. Warrant officers, in those days, were very fond of having what they called their stores, under their own eye; therefore, that was the gunner's answer to me about the shot-boxes. When the shot-boxes were removed from the fore-foot to their proper places, the ship resumed her former good qualities. On another occasion, in the Cleopatra, when we left Plymouth about the early part of 1836, for South America, accompanied by the Comus for some distance off the port. We were both close-hauled on the starboard tack, and nearly abreast of each other in the early part of the forenoon, but all at once the Comus appeared to pass the Cleopatra as if at anchor, and continued to do so, until the cause was removed. Being strongly of opinion, that something heavy must have been removed to one of the extremes, I immediately went on the lower-deck, and found as the watch below were securing everything for sea, all the men's bags had been stowed completely in the bows of the ship; the moment the bags were removed, and the lee-braces a little checked, the Cleopatra passed the Comus as fast as she had passed us before, and continued to do so, until we lost sight of her about sunset. If you trim a ship by putting weights in her extremes, you not only stand a great chance of impeding her sailing, but you may be sure of making her a very uneasy ship in a sea-way; perhaps even to endangering her masts.
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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