Being a constant reader of your valuable publication, I beg to submit to your notice a simple plan for wearing or staying a ship, in a shorter space than by the ordinary method. I have tried it with wonderful success in the Straits of Magellan, and I think, were it generally adopted, it would be the means of saving many a ship from a lee shore, or worse fate, especially when they have canvass enough set to stay, and doubtful of room to wear. It consists merely in having stout line made fast to the end of the jib-boom, and leading along outside to the waist or quarter, to the end of which is attached a conical canvass bag, capable of containing any quantity of water, according to the size of the size of the ship, or depth of water she may draw; and, for example, suppose a ship in thick weather and blowing hard makes the land, sooner than was expected, (which is I am sorry to say too frequently the case) she has not canvass enough set to stay, and would lose too much ground if wore, then by this simple method she might wear in quite as short space as she would stay. There is not the least trouble attending it, for by having a line bent on to the end of the bag, one man may haul it on board; and the expense of making it would be, a few yards of No. 1 canvass, as any sailor-man, who can use his palm and needle, may manufacture it; and what trouble is there in having a studding-sail or tack halliard bent on to the end of the jib-boom, and led along to the quarter, to be ready for any emergency?
The first time it occurred to me was in the Straits of Magellan; and the first time I tried it, was leaving Kemple Harbour (on the Terra del Fuego side), and just getting clear of two islands (Dos Hermanos), it came on suddenly to blow hard from the N.W., and having a poor offing, found it necessary to stay; but finding she would not come round, I immediately bent on several swabs, and an old canvass draw-bucket to a line that was towing alongside from the jib-boom end (having been obliged to use it in towing out of the harbour). I then ordered the helm to be put up, and so great was the check given to the ship, that she was round before we could get the yards trimmed. I ever afterwards adopted the plan in the vicinity of land, and never found it to fail my expectations.
It may be used with effect in getting underway, and wishing to cant, in a manner, that if canvass were set it would be dangerous.
I remain, &c.,
"Our correspondent has sent us a sketch with his letter, but as the article in question may be described as a large canvass extinguisher, with a wide mouth, it is unnecessary to illustrate it with a cut. His description is lucid enough without it, but we may add, that the mouth of the extinguisher or bag should be fastened to the rope which it is intended to haul on, by at least four good strong lines attached by way of nettles, so that it may be spread fairly by being hauled on, and resisted by the action of the water. We recommend it to the attention of our naval officers. But there are more purpose than 'wearing or tacking,' to which it may be applied. A machine of this kind dropped from the sprit-sail yard of a ship becalmed, and hauled on by a rope led to the quarter, would at once turn her broadside to any desired direction. Again, why may not two of them be employed in the same manner, and both being hauled on, there is at once the means of getting way on a ship in a calm, which on many an occasion has been desired. To do this effectually, they should be dropped from the sprit-sail yard-arms, hauled on by the ropes leading in-board at the quarters, and be lifted out of the water when they are aft, and roused forward again clear of the water in going forward, a process which can be effected readily enough by the rope fast to the pointed end of the bag. Perhaps the mouth of the bag might be kept open, when in use, by a couple of stretchers crossing each other on an axis passing through their middle, and opening at right angles, and closing into one when in use. A well managed arrangement of this process is well worthy of trial in both of these important conditions of a ship. It has the recommendation of being inexpensive, and easily made on board. In our opinion, it would be attended with success, and our seamen are the right hands to try it." -- Note by the Editor of the Nautical Magazine.
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius
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Copyright © 1998 Lars Bruzelius.