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

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Anchoring on a lee-shore, and cutting away masts.

When it is impossible to "claw off" a lee shore, and carrying canvass is of no avail, the adoption of the following practice is best calculated to recover the ship from her perilous position. After preparing cables and anchors, so as to be let go alternately, and dropped at a little distance from each other, in a line parallel to the shore, proceed thus. Furl, the square-sails as quickly as possible, and brace all the yards full; set all the fore-and-aft storm-sails; put the helm up, so as to keep way on the ship, as the cable of each anchor runs out in succession. The anchor pertaining to the cables on the weathermost hawse-holes, should be dropped first. Give the ship as much cable as her situation will permit, being careful that they all bear an equal strain. If you have not previously had time to make the ship snug aloft, do so immediately. Should the wind increase in violence, so as to endanger the ship driving on shore, her masts had better be cut away immediately. Vessels obliged to anchor on a lee-shore, in very exposed and dangerous situations, in gales of wind, not unfrequently defer cutting away their masts, until it is too late to save the vessel. I much fear that merchant seamen are often obliged to consider too much about the expense of replacing their spars, and loss of freight to the owners, at the very time that the axes should be at work in cutting away the masts. It should be borne in mind, that a square-rigged vessel will not generally ride above half the strain on her cables after her masts are cut away. When near a rocky lee shore, it is too late to bring with much hope soafety, after the vessel has once commenced to drive; however, even in such cases, cutting away the masts has svaed many vessels. If all your anchors are down, and cables out, bearing an equal and very heavy strain, with wind and sea increasing, a dangerous rocky shore, and death staring you in the face, if the vessel drive, cut away your masts immediately; a moment's delay may be fatal to ship, cargo, and crew. I am under an impression, that many vessels, lives, and cargoes, are lost yearly through neglecting this precaution. I do not advocate cutting away the masts except in extreme cases; but when these cases do occur, the officer must be quick in his decision, and prompt in execution, always being careful to keep the lower stays, and as many of the shrouds on each mast fast, as will insure their falling on the sides you wish, having previously passed the ends of a hawser between the lanyards of the rigging to be kept fast; this hawser well boused taut, and secured, will enable you to cut away the rigging better afer the falling of the masts.
Liardet pp 22-23.
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.