Instructions for Mariners Respecting the Management of Ships at Single Anchor,

and General Rules for Sailing, also Directions for Crossing the North Sea, the Cattegat, &c., with an address to seamen: to which is prefixed a memoir of the author's life.

by Henry Taylor

Memoirs, &c.

The Author's Preface.

To know how to manage a ship at single anchor is a necessary part of seamanship: but all seamen have not the same opportunity of learning this practicable branch of their duty; on this account the necessity of a publication on the subject is obvious; and especially as nothing to my knowledge had been previously published on the principle of the following instructions. There has recently come out a large and expensive publication on knotting, splicing, &c., which every half-bred seaman understands, in which there is also some directions given on swinging ships at single anchor, but too scientific to be useful; for while a mate is calculating the angle that the buoy makes with the ship's head, instead of bracing the yards about, and setting the sails necessary to back or fill, he will often have to heave up a foul anchor; or, what is worse, the ship may be lost in consequence of its being so. There are many fine spun theories entirely disregarded in practice, and the management of a ship at single anchor is one of these, especially in dark nights and stormy weather.

Before I published these instructions I consulted the most experienced commanders of this port, who certainly understand the subject as well as any, and better than most. They united with me in opinion that the most beneficial consequences would follow from a strict attention to them; I can therefore confidently recommend them to the serious attention of every seaman, also to Dover pilots, who do not in general understand the subject: the London Pilots, being mostly bred in the coal and coasting trades must be supposed to know better than their brethren at Dover.

Much of the damage and loss that happens in the Downs, or other roadsteads, to ships that use the southern trades, is owing to the want of experience in those who have the management of them at single anchor. The writer having used the sea many years, chiefly in the coal and coasting trades, has often been witness to the improper manner in which they swing their ships in a tide-way. Colliers and coasters never like to ride near them, for they often foul their anchors, and thereby risk their own and such ships as they drive on boardof.

But suppose the mate, or pilot, have ever so perfect a knowledge of their duty, they cannot always be on deck; every man, therefore, who instrusted with the charge of an anchor witch, should know when to ease or give the ship more helm, and in case of a shift of wind to know how to change the yards; for if he has not sense enough to brace the after-yards about, and by getting the fore-topmast staysail, while the mate is turning out, she may tumble over her anchor before he can get upon deck, and without is knowing she has done so.

The instructions under the several heads are short, and sufficiently plain and easy to be understood by any one who knows the technical terms of seamanship; had they been drawn out to a greater length it could only have served to perplex his memory.

Instructions for Mariners.

Riding at Anchor in moderate Weather.

Riding in a tide-way, with a fresh of wind, the ship should have what is called a short or windward service, say forty-five or fifty fathoms of cable, and always sheered to windward,[1] not always with the helm hard down, but more or less so, according to the strength or weakness of the tide. Ships have often been known to sheer their anchors home, drive on board of other ships, and on the sands near them, before it was discovered that the anchor had been removed from the place where it was let go.

When the Ship will back.

When the wind is cross, or nearly cross, off shore, or in opposite direction, ships will always back: this is done by the mizem-topsail, assisted if needful, by the mizen-staysail; such as have no mizen-topsail, commonly use the main-topsail, or if it blow fresh, a top-gallant sail (or any such sail) at the gaff.

In backing, a ship should always wend with a tawt cable, that you may be sure the anchor is drawn round: in case there is not a sufficiency of wind for that purpose, the ship should be hove a-peak.

How the Yards ought to be braced.

Riding with the wind afore the beam, the yards should be braced forward; and if a-baft the beam, brace them all a-back.

Riding Windward Tide, in danger of breaking her Sheer.

If the wind be so far aft that the ship will not back, (which should never be attempted, if when the tide ceases, she forge a-head, and bring the buoy on the lee-quarter) she should be set a-head; if the wind be far aft, and blowing fresh, the utmost care and attention is necessar, as ships riding in this situation often break their sheer, and come to windward of their anchor again. When a ship lies in this ticklish situation, the after yards must be braced forward, and the head yards the contrary way; she will lay safe as long as the buoy can be kept on the lee quarter: or supposing the helm a-port, as long as the buoy continues on the larboard quarter. With the helm thus, and the wind right aft, or nearly so, the starboard, main, and fore braces should be hauled in: this supposes the main braces to lead forward.

Tending to leeward, when the Ship must be set a-head.

When a ship begins to tend to leeward, and the buoy comes on the weather quarter, the first thing to be done is to brace about the head yards; and when the wind comes near the beam, set the fore-topmast staysail,[
2] and keep it standing until it shake; then brace all the yards sharp forward, especially if it be likely to blow strong.

How to manage when the Ships breaks her Sheer.

If laying in the aforesaid position and she break her sheer, brace about the main yard immediately; if she recover and bring the buoy on the lee, or larboard quarter, let the after-yards be again braced about; but if she comes to a sheer the other way, by bringing the buoy on the other quarter, change the helm and brace the head-yards too.

When a long Service is out, and the Ship is likely to go to Windward.

Riding leeward tide with more cable than the windward service, and expecting the ship will go to windward of her anchor, begin as soon as the tide ceases, to shorthen in the cable. This is often hard work, but it is necessary to be done, otherwise the anchor may be fouled by the great length of cable the ship has to draw round; but even if this could be done without fouling the anchor, the cable would be damaged against the bows or cut-water, — Observe, that when a ship rides windward tide, the cable should be cackled from the short service towards the anchor, as far as will prevent the bare part touching the ship.

When the ships tends to windward and must be set a-head, hoist the fore-staysail as soon as it will stand,[3] and when the boy comes on the quarter haul down the fore-topmast staysail, brace too the head yards, and put the helm a-lee; for till then the helm must be kept a-weather, and all the yards full.

How to manage in a Storm.

When a ship rides leeward tide and the wind increases, care should be takem to give her more cable in time, otherwise the anchor may start, and she may not easily be brought up again, and this care is the more necessary when she rides in the hawse of any ship. Previously to giving a long service, it is usual to take a weather-bitt; that is, a turn of the cable over the windlass end, that in bearing away, the ship may not overpower you. Grease the service, for that will prevent its chafing the hawse.[4]

If the gale continue to increase, the topmast should be timely struck, but the fore-yard should seldom if ever be lowered down, and in case of parting, the foresail may always be ready. At such times there should be more men on deck than the common anchor watch,[5] that no accident may happen from inattention or falling asleep.

In a tide-way a second anchor should never be let go but when absolutely necessary: a ship will sometimes ride easier and faster, (especially if the sea run high) with a very long scope of cable, and one anchor, than with less length and two anchors; however, it is advisable, as a preventative, when ship have not room to drive, and the night is dark, to let fall a second anchor under foot, with a range of cable along the deck: if this be not thought necessary, the deep sea lead should be thrown overboard, and the line frequently handled by the watch, that they may be assured she rides fast.

Caution respecting the Anchor Watch.

If at any time the anchor watch, presuming on their own knowledge, should wend the ship, or suffer her to break her sheer without calling the mate, he should immediately, or the very first opportunity, oblige the crew to heave the anchor in sight, which will prevent the commission of the like fault again; for besides the share of trouble the watch will have, the rest of the crew will blame them for neglecting their duty.

Particular Duty of the Chief Mate.

Prudent mates seldom lay a week in a roadstead without heaving their anchor in sight, even though they have not the least suspension of its being foul. There are other reasons why the anchor should be looked at; sometimes the cable receives damage by sweeping wrecks, or anchors that have been lost; or from rocks or stones, and it is often necessary to trip the anchor in order to take a clear berth, which should be done as often as any ship brings up too near. Do not spend time in disputing with those who may have given you a foul berth, for while you are so doing, the wind may increase, and prevent you shifting your situation, and the most fatal consequences may follow from your riding too near other ships: for one ship badley situated with respect to others, with bad fround tackling, and worse management, may be the means of driving twenty sail adrift on the strand, or sands near them.

A good roadstead is better and safer than a bad harbour; therefore, never leave the former for the latter, but in cases of real necessity: and I know but of one case where it can be necessary, and that is, when you can ride no longer, and have no lee-road to fly to for refuge.

No ship, however strong or fully built, can lay aground laden, without receiving damage, and probably a great deal more than at first discovers itself. Sharp-built ships, in such situations, often break all their bottom timbers; this they may do and yet swim, but coming to work at sea, the hidden wounds often break out, and inevitable ruin follows. Some of them, however, fortunately for their crews, receive so much damage as to be condemned in the harbour.

It seldom happens but ships have an opportunity of changing their roadsteads; as with a northerly wind from Yarmouth Roads to Lowestoft South Road; and with the wind to the eastward of north, from thence to Hosley Bay. There are many instances of colliers that have gone seven years, eight or ten voyages each year, and never in all that time put into a harbour by the way.

Ships waiting in the Downs for a wind to go westward, should when it begins to blow southerly, and the sea makes, take their anchors up, and go to Margate Road; especially such as ride to leeward, and are exposed to the danger of others driving foul of them. The trouble of frequently looking at the anchor, or changing a roadstead, should never be an object of consideration; but rather consider, that on so doing, may depend the safety of the ship and cargo, and even of you lives.

As chief mates are known to have the charge of ships at anchor, it behoves them to be very attentive to this part of their duty. Heaving a-peak, or the anchor in sight, shifting a berth, or changing a roadstead, may often cause the sailors to grumble; but that should not prevent mates from the execution of their duty, nor raise anything vindictive in their minds, so as to dispose them to treat the men ill, or give them a great deal of unneccessary trouble. This is a disposition, the indulgence of which will procure them the contempt of every generous seaman; for it is a general maxim, that "the man who uses a seaman ill, is no seaman himself;" there may be exceptions to this general rule, but they are very few.

Genral Rules for Sailing.

I. Ships steering or sailing with a fair wind, are always to give way to plying ships; if with daylight, a clear night, and clear weather, the former should run foul of the latter, he is wholly to blame, and the fault is aggravated, if during the night he has either spritsail or lower studdingsails set, as those are called blind sails, and prevent the master or mate from seeing objects a-head; it will be no excuse to say that seamen were stationed on the forecastle, for the purpose of looking out; because sailors are too generally careless, and often fall asleep. It is always safest to go under the stern of plying ships when near them.

II. Ships sailing different ways with the wind on the beam, are equally in fault if they run foul of each other. If the one be light and the other laden, I should lay a greater share of blame on the master of the light ship, because such ships will answer their weather helm very quickly, but few laden ships will do so.

III. If, in thick or foggy weather, a steering ship run board a plying one, provided the former carried a snug sail,[6] so that she could suddenly be thrown in the wind without danger of losing her masts, and provided each were careful to ring their bells, beat their drums, or sound their horns, I should call the damage done an act of Providence, but blame them less or more as they neglected these means, which all careful masters are known to make use of.

IV. If two ships plying to windward to the same point or place, where they have sea-room, and fairly under way, (providing the waether be clear, or so clear that they may see each other at a cable's length distance) run foul of each other, I should consider them equally to blame; but if one of them on such an occasion, when quick extertion is necessary, put his helm a-weather, and the other throw his ship immediately in stays, I should blame the first, and be inclined to acquit the last, because it is well known that few (especially laden ships) will quickly answer their weather helm: some ships will veer off till they bring the wind abaft the beam, and run with it to a considerable distance, and as, by running so far from the wind, their velocity will be greatly increased, the greater will the danger of sinking one or both if they meet. The most prudent method in this case is, for both ships to put their helms hard down a-lee, and then if they should fall alongside of each other, they will touch gently, and probably do no damage. There are few mates or masters but know this ought to be done, but they often, and too often fatally, are induced to try the experiment of veering, to avoid the trouble of staying their ships; besides men ought to be deterred from attempting to veer when they suddenly meet with a ship at a small distance from them, from the consideration that both ships may do the same, and then if they meet, the crash is dreadful indeed.

V. When ships are working to windward in a narrow channel, with sands on each side, it is more difficult in such a situation to give a right judgement, but the following remarks may serve as rules to judge by: — Suppose many ships are turning up the Cockle Gatt, one of them stays as near the Cockle Sand as it is prudent ro go, a ship following on her weather quarter continues her stretch, intending to tack within her, but runs on board of her,and sinks or causes her to miss stays and run upon the sand; he is, I think, wholly to blame, as it was in his power to have prevented the damage, but wholly out of the power of the other to have avoided it. Suppose two of these plying ships meet near midchannel, as they appoach towards each other, that ship which opens the land, or any other object to windward, and continues to do so (especially if she have the masts of the other open to windward) has a right to the weather gage. If the other wilfully keep her luff and strike the former, it will be on the lee-side, which is of itself a proof, withother evidence, that he is to blame, and consequently would be liable to pay the greater part of the damage, but not the whole, because a prudent master, when he falls in with such a fool-hardy and self-willed man, will throw his ship about, and by that means lessen, if not wholly prevent damage.

VI. In turning up rivers much damage is often done, and more through want of care than want of knowledge. The edge of the tide is the rule for putting about, even though the tide does not run half the breadth of the reach; some imprudently stand out of the tide, and occasion thereby much trouble to themselves and many of the ships in comapny with them, for when they come out of the eddy, and the edge of the tide takes their lee bow, it throws them in the wind, and though the helm be hard a-weather, the mizen sheet flown, or the peak of the mainsail down, she will drive liek a log under no command, probably the wholelength of the reach: let all others be careful not to stand too near her, for if they do any damage they must answer the consequences.

These few general rules, carefully observed, would prevent much of the damage that happens at sea; and as every candid person, from reading these remarks, must be convinced that none but seamen can be proper judges in ease of damage done at sea, is it not in the highest degree absurd to refer such matters to lawyers, and a jury of merchants and mechanics?

Directions for Crossing the North Sea, &c., &c.


1) It has been thought by some theorists, that ships should be sheered to leeward of their anchor, but the common practice of the most experienced seamen is against that opinion; for it is found that when a ship rides leeward tide, and sheered to windward, with the wind two or three points upon the bow, and blowing hard, in the interval between the squalls, the sheer will draw her towards the wind's eye; so that when the next squall comes, before she be pressed a-stream of her anchor, it is probable that there will be a lull again, and the spring which the cable got by the sheer, will greatly ease it during the squall.

Riding with the wind two or three points upon the quarter, when the wind and tide are nearly of equal strength, and when ships are so liable to break their sheer, if the helm should be a-weather, or the ship sheered to leeward, I cannot conceive how she can do otherwise than be continually breaking her sheer.

Every seaman knows that no ship without a rudder, or with the helm left loose, will veer; they always in such situations fly to; this proves that with the wind pressing upon the quarter, and the helm a-lee, a ship will be less liable to break her sheer than when the helm is a-weather. Besides, if the helm is a-lee when she breaks her sheer,it will be a-weather when the wind comes on the other quarter, as it ought to be, until she either swing to leeward, or coming to sheer the other way, bring the buoy on the lee quarter. Now if a ship break her sheer with the helm a-weather, it throws her head to the wind so suddenly, as scarce to give time to brace the yards about, and very probably she will fall over her anchor before the fore-staysail be got up. Back.

2) It sometimes happens that when the fore-staysail is set too soon, the ship's head will pay round off, and she will break her sheer; to prevent this, and to keep the wind broad upon her beam, it will often be found necessary to set the mizzen-staysail also; which should always be hauled down as soon as the wind comes before the beam, otherwise the ship's head will be thrown in the wind too soon. Back.

3) In moderate weather the jib may also be set. Back.

4) Every ship should have two or more leather services. Back.

5) The common anchor watch in colliers consists of two, an experienced man and a boy. It is thus boys are early taught their duty; and it was formerly thought a great honor for a young man, during his apprenticeship, to have the charge of an anchor watch. Back.

6) On coasts like those of this country, the master of a steering ship should be in constant expectation of meeting with plyers, and therefore in hazy weather should run under such a sail, that his ship should bear close upon a wind. Back.

Henry Taylor: Instructions for Mariners Respecting the Management of Ships at Single Anchor, and General Rules for Sailing, also Directions for Crossing the North Sea, the Cattegat, &c., with an address to seamen: to which is prefixed a memoir of the author's life.
James Imray and Son, London, 1861 (7th). 12mo, 11,5×6,5 cm, 68 pp, inc. frontisp., (2) pp adv.
First edition 1792.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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