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

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On not carrying sail in proportion as the gale decreases.

We often hear much said of vessels carrying more sail than prudence would dictate; and on many occasions, no doubt, vessels have been endangered, spars carried away, and lives lost, for the want of this precaution. If a ship is heavily pressed with sail, without the hope of some adequate advantage to the Service, the officer so carrying sail brings a heavy responsibility on himself, in the event of any serious accident to ship, life, spars, sails, or rigging. There are some cases in which, as long as you can get a fathom more out of a ship, sail must be carried, such as chasing an enemy's vessel of war, ship charged with urgent despatches, working off a lee shore, &c.; still, with all this well considered, I am much inclined to think that many of our vessels suffer seriously from the want of carrying sail as blowing weather decreases: it is no uncommon thing to see a ship's sail reduced by a gale to her close-reefed main-topsail, and perhaps storm fore-and-aft sails; and while the gale lasts, though the sea may be very high, still the power of the main-topsail more particularly, and fore-and-aft storm sails, will keep the ship comparatively easy; but as the wind generally lessens much sooner than the swell goes down, it is no uncommon thing to see a ship rolling heavily to windward, and her sides straining with the heavy working of her masts, guns, &c., and this too often for the want of an increase in her sail; this is a circumstance of too frequent occurrence, not to have been often noticed by most seamen. There are few people who have been much at sea, who have not seen things thrown from side to side on such occasions; and sometimes midshipmen's chests playing at leap-frog with each other across the hatchways; this, and the heavy creaking noise of the guns, bulk-heads, &c., tells everybody below what the ship wants aloft. Low sails on such occasions, are of little use in steadying the ship compared with the topsails; low canvass is so liable to be becalmed in a high sea-way; besides, the higher the resisting power is placed on the masts, the more it will tend to decrease the rolling motion. The heavy jerking motion which ships receive on such occasions, is enough to do serious injury to any ship, more particularly an old one. To say the least of it, ships often have to undergo a thorough caulking, from neglecting to steady them with more and higher sail. I do not mean to advocate carrying sail beyond what is right and prudent, neither do I wish to force a ship against a head-sea on any account; but what I wish to observe is, that as the gale decreases, and the weather appears favorable, that a ship should not be allowed to tear herself to pieces, for the want of more sail to steady her. My own experience has taught me to believe, that many vessels are seriously injured from the idle practice of keeping them under low sail in a high sea, after the wind has much decreased, merely to keep still, waiting for fine weather, while all the time the ship is making herself more fit for a dock-yard, than to remain at sea. I have on more than one occasion, known a vessel to require a thorough caulking, entirely from the want of a little timely sail being set.
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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