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

Page 212:

To shift a bowsprit by the spars of the ship.

* "A variety of opinions prevail as to the most secure and practical mode of shifting a bowsprit; many officers prefer the plan of converting the fore-yard into the form of a derrick. Doubtless, this process is pursued upon the principle of saving time and trouble, but experience will teach the admirers of this method, that the practice is founded in error. To form a derrick of the fore-yard, it becomes necessary to dip the under yard-arm within the lower rigging, an operation in itself, attended with no little trouble. Moreover, to obtain a sufficient length of derrick to get in or out a large ship's bowsprit, it will be requisite to lash the yard to the mast, in a position approaching the under extremity of the yard, which cannot be deemed of sufficient strength to bear the strain† produced by the weight of the bowsprit. The bowsprit of a brig, or of a ship-sloop, may be shifted by means of the foreyard, but for a frigate, or ship of the line, it is recommended to have recourse to either of the following methods:--

"DERRICK FORMED OF FORE-TOPMAST. -- As the fore-topmast should always be struck preparatory to shifting a bowsprit, a secure and serviceable derrick may be formed of this spar, after the following method:-- lash a top-block close above the hounds of the topmast; through this block, reeve a stout hawser, securing the standing part to the fore-mast-head, and reeving the running part through another block lashed to the lower mast-head. This hawser is intended to act as a top-and-lift, by which the derrick may be raised or depressed, according to the angle required for lifting the bowsprit clear of the bows of the ship. When the upper purchase-blocks are lashed to the topmast-head, the heel of the derrick secured below, and its angular position obtained, the messenger, which should be previously taken up abaft the fore-mast, and passed over through the vacant hole in the fore-cap to the topmast-head, must be boused well taut upon deck. The messenger should be passed through a large heart, or thimble. so as to act as a fair leader in taking the strain off the topmast-head, and throwing it more upon the head of the lower mast. Perhaps employing the messenger, upon the same principle that a top-tackle-pendant is rove through the lower yard for getting in the lower-deck guns will be found to answer best. In this case, the viol-block may be lashed to the hounds of the topmast, so as to take the messenger, and act the part of the fair leader. The main-purchase is then lashed to the eye of the messenger. But it will be always safest to lash the purchase to the head of this spar."

"SHEERS FORMED BY TWO TOPMASTS.-- This method though causing a little more trouble, in consequence of having to clear the step of the bowsprit of two sticks instead of one, will nevertheless, in large ships, be found to be the safest mode of shifting so heavy a spar as that of a bowsprit of a ship of the line."

"To rig the sheers, proceed thus.-- take the fore and main-topmasts, and lash together their heads aloft. Upon each mast-head, lash a top-block, through which reeve two stout hawsers, to answer the purpose of top-and-lifts, led double to the lower mast-head. Take the messenger (as in the preceding method) through the topmast-hole in the lower-cap, and secure it to the sheer's-head. The heel of each top-mast should be previously placed on "strong backs," or stout pieces of plank, each of which should rest, if possible, on the beams of the forecastle-deck. The beams underneath should be well shored up on the different decks. As soon as the sheers are dropped to the required angle, the heel of each topmast should be well secured by stout lashings passed between two ports, or round the timber-heads in the bulwarks of the forecastle; the messenger and top-and-lifts to be well secured upon deck. The main-purchase-block, in this instance, is to be lashed by a stout lashing to the sheer's-head."

"CAUTION.-- In getting in the bowsprit; care must be taken that the main-purchase be overhauled down abaft the bumpkin; for should the purchase-fall be passed before and under the bumpkin, it will be impossible to lift the bowsprit higher. The spar must necessarily be lowered again into the water; the purchase untoggled and shifted abaft the bumpkin, and in fact, all the work must be done over again."*

When preparing to take out a bowsprit, if you have not another ready to replace it immediately, it will be desirable (as Capt. Glascock very properly observes) to strike the fore-topmast; but in a case of great emergency, with another bowsprit quite ready, fine weather, &c., there cannot be any great risk in taking out a disabled bowsprit, and replacing it with another, if done immediately, by merely sending top-gallant masts on deck, or striking them, &c. If a vessel is likely to be detained for any length of time, with her bowsprit out, it will be more seamanlike to strike both fore and main-topmasts, as all the support you can possibly give to the fore-mast in this situation, is really at so small an angle, that no increased strain ought to be brought on the head of that mast, which must be the case, if the main-topmast is not struck. In the event of blowing weather, or heavy pitching, the fore-mast must be endangered, if the main-topmast remain aloft.

NOTE.-- In page 44, under the head of "Shifting a Bowsprit," I perceive, after the article was printed, that I had not sufficiently explained the manner of rigging sheers for the purpose of taking out a bowsprit, and as Captain Glascock has proposed two good methods of rigging sheers for that purpose, I cannot do better than insert them here.

* Capt. Glascock's Naval Manual (Page 173).

† An intelligent officer, and one of the first seamen in Her Majesty's service, thus writes to the author:-- "I decidedly agree with you; the fore-yard should never be used for the purpose of shifting the bowsprit. Experience supports this opinion, as I have, on board of two frigates, witnessed the springing of the fore-yard of each ship in attempting the operation. In the second instance (in 1813), the accident delayed for several days, the sailing from the Brazils of a convoy consisting of 300 sails. Need I say more."

* "This double trouble, through the obstinacy of a directing party, occurred some few years since, on board a frigate moored in Plymouth Sound. The principal director was fully warned of the impossibility of his mode of proceeding, but, considering suggestion to be synonymous with dictation, he thought proper to persist in error, until error left him in the lurch."

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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