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

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On sails being too taut up during rainy weather.

Capt. Griffith On seamanship (page 304), says "Now reflect that a topsail hoisted taut up, &c., must endanger the yard, from those casualties which the idle and thoughtless never dream of. A heavy night dew, a shower of rain, a mere change in the air from dry to damp, will cause, not only the leach-ropes, but the halliards, tye, &c., to shrink, so as to place a great additional strain on the yard. A little swell and a head sea will, from pitching, operate to spring it also. Is it not better to husband the yard, &c., against the day of need, in chase on a lee shore, &c., Besides, in a man-of-war with plenty of men, how easy it is to take a pull of the topsail-halliards while the top-gallant sails are loosing." Capt. Griffith's remarks on the effect of damp or rainy weather, on topsail-halliards, tyes, leach-ropes, &c., are equally applicable to all sails that are very taut up during a shower of rain, more particular of the rain is of long continuance. In reading Capt. Griffith's remarks on this subject, the mind runs back to the number of spars, sails, ropes, &c., which one has seen carried away for the want of a timely easing away of halliards, sheets, tacks, &c., so as to admit of the shrinking of the ropes and canvass during a heavy shower of rain. There are few first lieutenants who have not saved the Service some yards, or sails, by themselves giving the ropes a timely check. If a ship has all her sails tautly set, and a very heavy shower of rain comes on, and all the ropes are kept fast, something must give way: hence it arises, that in such weather, when the sails and ropes are not attended to, that more casualties take place at that time, than at any other -- such as yards carried away in the slings, leach-ropes, tack-ropes, block-strops, &c. After a heavy night's rain in harbour, when you see how the yard-arms are buckled up with the power of the rain on the lifts (this must have struck every seaman), if the signal-halliards have been forgotten to be slacked over night, you will often see the cleat torn away from its place, and should the halliards be belayed to a large cleat by mistake, the halliards will either be carried away, or the truck at the mast-head broken; but should the signal-halliards remain fast to the cleat when torn away from the ship's side, the cleat will often be above a man's reach from the deck. The quantity of wet which rope takes up, proves the power which rain must have on a dry rope already at a full stretch.
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.