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

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On tacking.

Nearly every change in wind or sea, occasions some deviation in the mode of tacking. In light winds, when everything is quite ready for going about, and you are doubtful whether the ship will go round, run the head-sails down, and if there is sufficient wind to give her head and inclination to come to windward, the moment she does so, put the helm down, and haul the boom in midships; but should this be doubtful, the moment the head-sails are down, put the helm a-lee, and haul the boom in midships: in both cases check the head-braces when you think you can help the ship by doing so, keeping them manned ready to brace up, the moment the sails are well aback; do not haul the main-yard until the wind is nearly two points on the bow, and run the head-sails up at the same time; but of course much will depend on the quick or slow working of the ship, as to the time of hauling the main-yard. I have for many years preferred tacking with everything fast, as long as the wind and sea would permit it. Suppose you do ease off the fore-sheet and head-sheets when the helm is put down, the whole lever of the sails while shaking, is thrown further forward; the jib, instead of having its weights divided between the bows of the ship and boom-end, is jerking heavily at the boom-end; and the fore-sail, instead of having its weight divided, is jerking away from the bumpkin. In keeping everything fast, the sails help the ship until the last moment; she gains more ground, as she shoots nearly twice the distance; but in this, like most things in seamanship, it requires care when you do not wish the ship to shoot too much in stays. I was in a frigate where we invariably tacked with everything fast when wind and weather would permit; and when the men were at their meals, we always put the helm down, and turned the hands or watch up, about-ship at the same time, and we invariably found the men at their stations ready for raising tacks and sheets; this was most useful, as it gave the men the habit of moving up quickly, and insured them many meals in their messes, which they would not have had otherwise. In a strong working breeze, with much sea, it will be desirable to keep the fore-tack fast until you haul the main-yard, with attention to head-braces, if required, keeping look-out for stern-way. Ships are frequently baulked for the want of the main-yard being up in good time; the first swing of the main-yard will carry it faster forward than you can run in a single part of a rope through one block, therefore, whenever you are anxious about the ship staying well in a breeze, your preventer-braces being previously fitted with a double or two single blocks aloft, and both ends brought on deck, you can then work both parts, or only one, just as you think proper; but in a breeze, you will find a great help in working the preventer-braces both parts together at the same time with the main-top bowline, so as to keep the main-yard in its place until you receive assistance from the main-brace, if requisite. Head-bowlines should be well manned in hauling the head-yards round, as it not only assists the yards, but occasions the sails to fill rather sooner than they would otherwise. Great care should be taken to have the main-tack on board, and sheet aft in good time to let the ship feel the good effects of this powerful sail as soon as possible. Putting the helm down is seldom sufficiently attended to; if the ship is going nine knots or two, it is frequently put down equally quick. By looking over the ship's side previous to tacking, you can generally form a very good judgement of how she will go round; and should she not have sufficient way, keep her good full for stays. Ships are frequently baulked for the want of attention to this point, and sometimes from the over-anxiety of the forecastle-men to get the head sheets over too soon. At night, when you cannot see the mast-head vane, you must tack either by the driver, the heel of the ship, or the compass.
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.